Previewed 16 December 2014, Opened 14 January 2015, Closed 8 January 2017 at the King's Cross Theatre in London
The return of the York Theatre Royal site-specific stage production of Edith Nesbit's The Railway Children at King's Cross Station.
The moving story of Bobby, Peter and Phyllis - three children whose lives change dramatically when their father is mysteriously taken away. They move from London to a cottage in rural Yorkshire with their mother where they befriend the local railway porter and embark on a magical journey of discovery, friendship and adventure. But the mystery remains - where is Father, and is he ever coming back?
Edith Nesbit's The Railway Children was originally serialised in The London Magazine during 1905 and was first published in book form in 1906. It has been adapted for film a number of time, although the best known version was the 1970 film directed by Lionel Jeffries which stared Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Bernard Cribbins. Now, following two successful London seasons at the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station in 2010 and 2011, Damian Cruden's production of Mike Kenny's stage adaptation of Edith Nesbit's novel returns to London at a specially constructed 1,000 seat theatre at King's Cross Station and will once again feature a live 60-tonne steam locomotive and Gentleman's Carriage, utilising the real life railway track and platforms, along with a state of the art heating system.
The auditorium, created especially for this production, is built with the audience seated on either side of the railway track - on either PLATFORM ONE or PLATFORM TWO, with the action taking place both on the track and on the platforms either side. This production uses the old Gentleman's saloon carriage from the original classic film as well as a period steam train from the National Railway Museum in York.
When this production opened at the King's Cross Theatre in January 2015, Ben Lawrence in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "the staging is magnificent, and director Damian Cruden skilfully weaves the haphazard plot through a complex sequence of moving stages. The much-publicised steam train is a sturdy, shiny green beast; it's a gimmick, but it's an irresistible one." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that "whether you know the story from the novel or Lionel Jeffries' film this extraordinary production is bound to deliver satisfaction... absolutely ripping." Dominic Maxwell in the Times wrote that "while it remains solid entertainment, it lacks the phenomenal charm that blew me away last time... this remains a good family show, but on this evidence it's no longer the wonder that once made me urge unaccompanied adults to see it." William Moore in the London Evening Standard praised "Damian Cruden's delightful production," adding that "the show's greatest success is that, even at two hours long, the very youngest in the auditorium were fully on board with the story. Full steam ahead, then." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times described how "there's great warmth and heart to this staging. Mike Kenny's script is light on its feet and peppered with droll asides and Damian Cruden's production is fluent and witty, emphasising the tight bond between the children." Annalee Mather in the Independent noted how "one cannot fail to engage with the excellent staging and spectacle of Cruden's telling of the children's classic but the strength of characters portrayed by Nesbit lose on the night against the manufactured might of a steam engine."
"Both adults and children are well served by Mike Kenny's skilful adaptation of Edith Nesbit's classic novel. Kenny's masterstroke is to have the story narrated and re-enacted by the railway children themselves some years after the event, thus retaining Nesbit's tone, with its typical Edwardian blend of sententiousness and sentimentality, and the children's ingenuous charm. Cruden's neat traverse staging, in which Joanna Scotcher's sets roll fleetly along the rails, has a fluid, dreamlike quality that gives equal weight to the children's adventures and the father's wrongful arrest." The Sunday Express
"The cast of this lovingly adapted stage version of E N Nesbitt's classic children's book were on a sticky wicket from the start - excellent as they were, they were certain to be upstaged. The real star of this show is the vintage steam train that comes chuffing into the specially constructed theatre at a crucial moment - leading to a huge chorus of 'oohs' and 'ahs' from the largely junior audience. It's just one magical moment in this fabulous family show that - from the exquisite Edwardian costumes, to the low level audience participation - strikes the perfect balance between heart warming morality tale and lavish stage spectacle." The Sunday Mirror
"This family show is back on the tracks - this time behind King's Cross Station in London, where a recreated Edwardian waiting room leads into an auditorium divided by a railway track. And it's all aboard for this acclaimed staging of Edith Nesbit's classic about a family uprooted to rural Yorkshire when their father is falsely imprisoned for treason. The show comes with great bursts of steam and shrieking sound effects that have littl'uns clamping hands to ears... Mike Kenny's adaptation contains all the book's adventures and evokes its raw childhood emotions... For trainspotters, there's a brief encounter with the show's star turn, a curvaceous 60-ton Stirling locomotive, plus carriage." The Mail on Sunday
This production is directed by Damian Cruden, with designs by Jo Scotcher, lighting by Richard G. Jones, music by Christopher Madin and sound by Craig Vear. This production is presented by the York Theatre Royal in association with the National Railway Museum, York where it was first presented for two seasons from 17 July to 23 August 2008, returning from 29 July to 5 September 2009. It then transferred for two seasons at the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station when it previewed from 4 July 2010, opened on 12 July 2010 and closed on 2 January 2011 before returning for a summer seasson when it previewed from 18 June 2011, opened on 28 June 2011 and closed on 8 January 2012.
"All the essential parts of E Nesbit's heartfelt, complicated story are realised here... Mike Kenny's adaptation makes this a story recollected by adults, who play themselves (not creepily) as children: which is true to the acute mixture in Nesbit's stories of adventure and politics and sophisticated emotion; buoyancy is mingled with regret and remorse. The simple effects - a grey sheet of gauze creates a tunnel - work well." The Observer (2010)
"The long, narrow set handsomely evokes the age of steam, but this is not quite the exercise in nostalgia fans of the 1970 film might expect. Adult actors play the three children, reliving their eventful summer in Yorkshire after Father's 'disappearance': coupled with prim accents and arch theatrical asides, this risks unlikeability, but the book's spiky humour and sharp take on the class divide shine through... It's testament to the production's pace that it would thrill even without the steaming, gleaming, show-stopping magnificence of the Stirling Single, a 66-tonne locomotive. All in all, ripping." The Sunday Times (2010)
"There is a cutting running down the length of the stage and you just know from the moment you see it that a stonking great choo-choo is going to come down it sooner or later. In the event, a gleaming green and gold, 66-ton Stirling Single locomotive makes its entrance just before the end of the first act. It draws the very saloon carriage that was used in the film version. It puffs on cue, keeps rigidly to its marks and more than deserved the round of applause it was given by the first-nighters. The play, directed by Damian Cruden, amounts to un hommage to the muchloved 1970 film with lookalike - if not quite soundalike - players... None of them can compete, of course, with the train. There are Sensurroundstyle effects going on which make you feel the rumble of the great steam engine long before you see it." The Sunday Telegraph (2010)
The Railway Children in London at King's Cross Station previewed from 16 December 2014, opened on 14 January 2015 and closed on 8 January 2017.