WRIGHT THINKING: Railway Children is a steaming success

The locomotive from the original Railway Children film.
The locomotive from the original Railway Children film.

One of the many great things about being a grandparent is that you have the perfect excuse to simply get away from the desk and enjoy yourself for the day.

We had a great trip last week when we took our two grandsons to York and renewed acquaintance with York Theatre Royal’s superb production of The Railway Children.

It’s currently running at the newly-installed Signal Box Theatre, right next to the National Railway Museum, and what a fantastic venue it is.

The audience is banked either side of a central stage which is wonderfully versatile – especially as it has a railway line running through it!

You may remember The Railway Children as the original book by Edith Nesbit or the famous film starring Jenny Agutter in the late Sixties, but it works superbly well on the live stage.

As you may remember, the story revolves around the three youngsters whose lives change dramatically when their father is unjustly imprisoned after a false accusation of stealing state secrets no less.

As in all the best stories for youngsters, it’s the children who end up as the heroes and become instrumental in getting their dad cleared and back home.

The production began life courtesy of York Theatre Royal in 2008 and was a resounding success.

I saw it, with grandson William, in 2010 when it was staged in London’s Waterloo Station.

The next year, it was off to Toronto for a very a successful run in a specially built auditorium called The Roundhouse.

With yet another twist to the story, that theatre was brought across the Atlantic and is now the Signal Box Theatre in York!

York is definitely the play’s natural home, and the fact that the central family in the plot had relocated from London to Yorkshire was a great source of running humour.

When they sought something sophisticated as in their past luxurious life, the reply “You’re not from round here, are you?” always guaranteed a good laugh.

One of my first jobs in journalism was as a theatre critic and, hand on heart, I can say that no praise is too high for the cast and entire company in York.

I’ve always believed passionately that high quality theatre will give kids a habit for life and you could easily see how much the young people enjoyed it last week.

Our own two are 15 and 11, very sophisticated and tech savvy, but they raved about this – and jaws dropped when a real live steam train came into the action.

For proper train-spotters, the locomotive pictured is the Great Western Railway Pannier Tank 5775, the engine from the original film.

The production is on until September 5 and the short trip to York is well and truly worth it.

They are using the same theatre for this year’s panto with the splendid title of Dick Whittington and his Meerkat.

We’ll be back – oh yes we will!