The Railway Children
By E. Nesbit
Adapted by Dave Simpson
Directed by: Barry Kitchen
Assisted by: Tim Ponsford
Production Dates: 22nd-24th September 2022
Location: Durley Memorial Hall
Our next production is a special one for us as it’s the closest to our 75th anniversary. Yes, that’s right, we’ve been treading the boards of Bishopstoke and beyond since 1947!
The play we’ve chosen to celebrate with is that much-loved family classic, ‘The Railway Children’. Since it was published in 1906, Edith Nesbit’s novel has become a classic which has been read and loved by successive generations of children the world over, as well as delighting cinema and TV audiences. Now its appeal is widened still further with Dave Simpson’s adventurous yet sensitive stage adaptation of the original novel.
Set in and around a country railway station at the turn of the last century, the plight of the Railway Children grappling with their new environment is imaginatively brought to life for a modern audience whilst losing nothing of the original spirit of humour, adventure and the final triumph of good over evil.
Sadly we’re not able to celebrate this milestone in Bishopstoke but do please join us in Durley Memorial Hall from 22nd to 24th September at 7.30 each evening, with a matinee at 2.30 on the Saturday.
As we are proud to have done every year for 75 years, we’ll be donating proceeds from this play to the charity, Action for Children.
🎭 REVIEW 🎭
The Railway Children
📍 Bishopstoke Players
“A Spiffing Production”
The Railway Children is Bishopstoke Player’s 75th Production and is currently being staged at Durley Memorial Hall.
This enchanting version of The Railway Children (based on the book by E. Nesbit and adapted for stage by Dave Simpson tells the story of a family who are forced to move from London into the country following the wrongful arrest of their Father for spying, and the story follows the adventures and friendships formed by the children in particular, with Perks, his family, the Old Gentleman on the train, and finishes like all good stories with a happy ever after ending, when the family are reunited with their father.
A story such as this cannot be easy to stage, but Bishopstoke Players made an excellent job of a difficult task. Perks, the grumpy but likeable station porter, played by Kevin Bowers confidently and clearly narrated the performance, and Vicky Bonner gave a strong performance as the well-spoken and upperclass mother of the 3 Railway Children. The busy doctor (Drew Craddock) and the likeable Russian Mr Szczepansky (Adrian Barrett) with his multi-lingual lines, together with the well known Old Gentleman on the train (Pete Burton) were all stalwart characters in the story, and together with the Perks children (Cameron Caws, Beth Bowers, Juliette Morrison, Amber Bailey) they kept the audience captivated throughout.
Congratulations should go to the whole cast and crew for this production, but particular mention for The Railway Children themselves. The sensible, prim and proper Roberta (Lola Barrett) , the scatty, stroppy and strongheaded Phyllis (Ella Cannavo) and the slightly snobby, cheeky, upper class Peter (Lizzie Sellers).
Numerous lines were effectively and clearly delivered, and they stayed in character throughout the performance – no mean feat bearing in mind the young age of these actors.
The simple set worked well, with an abundance of props all in keeping with the era, and the sound effects (JJ, Sam Marsh) and lighting (Barry Kitchen) added to the atmosphere and really made you think the train was just around the corner. Director was Barry Kitchen, assisted by Tim Ponsford.
Bishopstoke Players donate all their profits to the Charity ‘Action for Children’ (formerly the National Children’s Home, and are to be commended for the vast amount they have raised since they started way back in 1947.
In the words of Peter, this was a ‘spiffing production’ and is only running until Saturday so book your tickets fast.
Reviewed by Liz for Encore Reviews
Scene One Plus
THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
: Bishopstoke Players : Durley Memorial Hall, Durley : Anne Waggott : 22 September 2022
“Daddy!! Oh, my Daddy!”
Bishopstoke Players asked who can resist that timeless line? Not me, apparently! Since early childhood, I’ve been drawn back to the Golden Age of Steam Railways and three children who are uprooted from their comfortable London home to resettle with restricted circumstances in a rural location which incorporates a small yet bustling railway station. Whether reading the book, watching the film with my own Dad, or listening to the LP recording over and over, I was captivated by the story of how Mother supported her children whilst resiliently coming to terms with the absence of her husband through a miscarriage of justice, how the children endeared themselves to the locals, saving the day in a way that proves heroes can appear in small yet spirited packages, and its iconic conclusion.
In recent years, there’s always a slight trepidation that the play I’m going to see may not live up to my childhood recollections or my memories might become tainted with a poor production. Bishopstoke Players quickly reassured me that they have been as faithful to the spirit of E Nesbit’s original novel as Dave Simpson’s adaptation and Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 film, staging a charming rendition of a much loved, evergreen tale. The only deliberate alteration is moving the location from Yorkshire to the Hampshire countryside (with a few nods to local destinations appreciated by the audience!), which works very well (although a bigger difference in accents would be beneficial).
This show coincides with Bishopstoke Players’ 75th anniversary. Throughout its history, they have raised as much money as possible for children’s charities, initially the National Children’s Home, nowadays Action For Children, and so it is entirely fitting that a cast of children is at the heart of this production.
The trio of Lola Barrett (Roberta/Bobbie), Lizzie Sellars (Peter) and Ella Cannavo (Phyllis/Phyl) establish their characters with aplomb and have lovely sincere sibling relationships – tender, caring, loving, funny, squabbling, shifting allegiance between themselves according to the circumstance, all as brothers and sister naturally do. The alternating rivalry and camaraderie with Perks’ children (Cameron Caws, Beth Bowers, Juliette Morrison and Amber Bailey) adds depth and humour to childhood friendships, and they all show much promise for future roles. It takes confidence and good direction to encourage the action to start when the lights are down and the focus elsewhere (such as with Perks’ narration) so that there is a natural flow to proceedings when the lights go up, and yet the trio (especially Lizzie) consistently achieve this.
Mother (a strong performance from Vicky Bonner) and the Old Gentleman (Pete Burton) add warmth, trustworthiness, affability and heart, while the introduction of Mr Szczepansky (played amiably by Adrian Barrett) reveals how prejudices and preconceived ideas can be overturned by communication and the hand of friendship.
I’ve seen two different versions in the past year, with the first production narrated by the children in asides to the audience. In this adaptation, the storyteller is Station Master Perks, and it is just as effective a way of linking the scenes together, enabling the narrative to flow with ease. Perks (the character made famous by the sadly missed late Bernard Cribbins) is brought to life by Kevin Bowers, transitioning seamlessly between enlightening the audience and his interaction with other characters. He enjoyed an easy-going rapport with the London trio as well as Perks’ own children, and he shared a very credible relationship with the delightful Kimberley Jones as his on-stage wife.
It is challenging to stage a play set in roaming countryside and along a busy railway in a small village hall, and yet Bishopstoke Players have overcome any limitations of such a venue with a simple yet effective scenery, excellent period props and costumes (with one or two notable exceptions) and good sound effects enhancing the overall ambience, while the lighting effects for the passing train was particularly good. There were a few stumbles and hesitations with opening night nerves, but overall, everyone was secure with their dialogue, diction was impeccable, and the story moved along very nicely at a good pace, with the children injecting an air of urgency at the appropriate moments.
The Railway Children runs until Saturday 24 September (7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday matinee). Get your tickets while you can for a memorable and enchanting ride!