DramaFamilyReviewSouth West

The Railway Children – The Northcott Theatre, Exeter

Adaptation: Dave Simpson

Director: Paul Jepson

Reviewer: Charlie Hackett

Edith Nesbit’s classic children’s tale is brought to life in this new and mostly successful, adaptation.

Following the disappearance of their father in mysterious circumstances and with their mother not able to provide for the family, Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are forced to leave their comfortable lives in London, heading north into the Yorkshire countryside.

Despite the children’s troubled circumstances, this is a production with a light-touch and a sweetheart. Stewart Wright’s portrayal of station master Mr Perks is warm and endearing, as is Callum Goulden’s performance as the mischievous John.

Millie Turner (Roberta) and Katherine Carlton (Phyllis) give especially strong performances, yet the first half of the show feels as though it is lacking that little spark needed to help the audience really connect with the characters. 

Clearly, a great deal of thought has gone into Timothy Bird’s set design; it’s both ambitious and at times undeniably impressive. The show’s much used ‘sick-bed’ is cleverly reminiscent of a train carriage and the use of projection is more often than not very effective. However, the staging can at times feel a little too ‘busy’, making the show’s more intimate moments feel a little lost, or at least not fully explored.

On the other hand, the show’s many comic moments are exploited fully, receiving many smiles and much appreciation from the audience.

The second act feels altogether stronger than the first, and the audience becomes more acquainted with Peter’s character, who was somewhat concealed in the first act. The production as a whole is mostly well-paced, although the ending seems somewhat abrupt when it arrives.

As a family-friendly show, The Railway Children is largely a success. Both gentle and entertaining, the production is a definite crowd-pleaser but is just missing that little something to make it a truly memorable experience.

Runs until 25 June 2017 | Image: Contributed

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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