THE RAILWAY CHILDRENGuildonian Players at the Little Theatre, Harold Wood
Mike Kenny's adaptation of the E Nesbit classic – as seen at Waterloo and King's Cross - owes something of its narrative structure to Edgar's legendary Nicholas Nickleby.
The staging is simple, the story is moved engagingly along by the characters, with everyone chipping in. It starts, in fact with the three youngsters squabbling over details as they recall that summer when they became the Railway Children.
They're convincingly played by Genevieve Allen as Bobbie, the eldest, who becomes a grown-up thanks to the crisis that sends the family up to Yorkshire; Ben Sylvester as Peter, well-meaning and impetuous, and Abigail Farenden as Phyllis, acutely aware of being the baby of the family.
Two wonderful performances from Chrissie O'Connor as Mother, nobly coping with adversity, and Tom Hind as a genial, pipe-smoking Perks the Porter. And three cherishable below-stairs cameos from Carole Brand. Not to mention a clutch of actual children, including a tiny Edwardian tot in the opening scene.
Susie Faulkner's production has no rolling stock, but no shortage of theatrical magic. The sun comes out and a marvellous moorland backdrop is revealed. Revolving flats for slick scene changes, tunnel entrances framing the emergency exits, even a moving grove for the landslip disaster.
And in a triumph of total theatre, the techies run the show from a specially constructed signal box [doubling as ticket office], there's bunting in the buffet, and a fine collection of railway posters adorning the walls.