Categories - York Theatre Royal
I’ve previously seen, and recorded on my ‘lost’ blog, two of the various incarnations of Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children that Mike Kenny has written for the stage, in conjunction with York Theatre Royal and director Damian Cruden. One was performed in The National Railway Museum in York in 2008, the second at King’s Cross in 2015. Both were superb.
The Shows Must Go On is currently offering the opportunity to watch the streaming of another staging from 2015, again at The National Railway Museum, with the intention of raising important funds for Child Bereavement UK, an organisation very close to my own heart, and one of crucial importance in a Covid year that has torn families apart through separations, deaths, an incapacity to channel the stages of grief, and to support those who are bereaved, in meaningful ways.
It is a production that, although based on a book that was first serialised in 1905, timely resonates with much of the political and social upheaval that this past year has brought, poking a ‘finger into the soft round dough’ of inept government leadership, the absence of family members, life interrupted and turned on end, gender inequalities, racial prejudices and tensions, the effects of illness on family, the gifted food parcels, medical professionals whose work load and compassion are not reflected in their pay packets, and the impacts of poverty, financial loss and unemployment.
The train they refer to as ‘The Dragon’ is the metaphorical link to the absent father of Bobby, Phyllis and Peter, reminding them of their old lives. Unable to travel on the train themselves they communicate with strangers, separated from them physically by train doors, windows and gated landscapes, reaching out through waves and written messages; how many of us have reached out to strangers in a very similar way during this year? The handclaps, the raised hands across the barriers, the friendships forged in the newness of it all, and the attempts to communicate have all been evidenced. As the railway brings their father home, their dependence upon the structure itself lessens, but they are moved on to the next phase of their lives with the support of their new friends.
But, of course, this is the ‘prodding further stuff’. On the surface, The Railway Children is an engaging story full of humour, suspense, mischief, the growing pains of being a teenager, sibling banter, delightful characterisations, beautiful lighting, music and costume, and imaginative staging. There is something to bring joy to every generation, wherever and however they are celebrating.
In this production of The Railway Children, the youngest child, Phyllis, comments upon their old life as one that included visits to the pantomime at Christmas. Hanging on our family Christmas tree are two glass slippers – part of a very treasured package of thoughtful gifts given to my, then young, children by York Theatre Royal when their sister’s death necessitated cancelling the annual trip to the pantomime. 2020 has seen theatres go dark, Christmas shows not able to go ahead in a conventional way, and those much anticipated trips to the theatre will not be happening for most of the population. Just as the lovely staff at York Theatre Royal softened the sadness for my children with their kindness all those years ago, the resourcefulness of creatives within the arts world has found new ways of doing things, touring ‘safe venue’ alternatives, zoom plays, and streaming some very beautiful shows during this re-arranged Christmas season. They don’t solve every issue and nor were they ever intended to, but they assuage a little of the pain, loneliness and loss of a devastating year. The Railway Children is elegant family entertainment, beautifully executed by actors that we love, and are part of all that is comforting, warm and familiar – Martin Barass, Michael Lambourne, Andrina Carroll, Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey, Beth Lilly, Izaac Cainer, Robert Angell, Elianne Byrne, Jacqueline Naylor, James Weaver, Alex Wingfield and the York Theatre Royal young company – and it has lost none of its enchanting charm and freshness in the intervening five years since it was first staged. It is available until December 23rd, at The Shows Must Go On, and a donation to Child Bereavement UK would be extremely well used - the death of an important family member, especially a child, is never totally resolved, but with the right support it can be negotiated with grace and a capacity to move forward.
This part of my site isn't about me at all.
It is about watching, observing and reading the work of others. Those who know what they are about, who have honed their crafts over many years and for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration.
I have learned, and continue to learn, so much from each show watched, each book read, each art work discovered and each person encountered, and I am humbled by their generosity of spirit in giving so much.