Last year, I went to York Theatre Royal’s summer show (Wind in the Willows) and I was not disappointed. A family friendly show which was both funny and interactive, it made you come out feeling good. This year, the theatre is undergoing refurbishment and as a result The Railway Children is being shown in the new purpose built Signal Box Theatre at the National Railway Museum. There really is no better way to see it and from arrival you feel immersed in the story having to walk past a range of trains to reach the theatre area.
This children’s classic was brought to life, entertaining both young and old alike. To begin with, I was initially a little thrown at being sat opposite the other half of the audience (two banks of raked seating facing each other) but as I was absorbed into the tale, I soon forgot that I was facing them. Having to perform to two sides at once didn’t throw the actors at all, and there was no point where I felt as though I was disadvantaged from seeing a certain scene as a result of the layout.
The highlight of the play had to be just before the interval, when the children attempt to stop a train from crashing into a landslide on the line. This is the first time that an actual train appears in the play, and it is a delight to see an old steam train, and the one used in the film at that, becoming part of the performance. Another highlight is when the children enter a tunnel, and a train goes roaring past as they are flattened against the wall. The light and sound effects which are used to represent the train are eerily realistic and you feel your heart in your mouth as the ‘train’ passes the children.
The way that the children finish each other’s sentences makes the performance feel seamless, but also highlights the bond between them. You feel as though you are on the platform edge, living the experience with them. If you live in York and haven’t yet been (it runs till 5th September) or are planning on visiting York in that time then I really would recommend booking tickets now!