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The Railway Children at the Kings Cross theatre

First Published 15 January 2015, Last Updated 6 June 2018

What’s it all about?

This Olivier Award-winning show is based on E Nesbit’s classic 1906 novel about three children who move with their mother to the countryside after their father is mysteriously taken away. During the course of the show you learn all about the trio’s adventures in the Yorkshire village of Oakworth, their friendship with station master Mr Perks, the kindness of a regular passenger to whom they give the name Old Gentleman and, eventually, the mystery behind their father’s disappearance.

But what it’s really about – particularly for the children in the audience – is the real-life steam train that rolls into the theatre as part of the production.

How do they tell the story?

Spectacularly is the only answer to this question. From the moment you arrive at the King’s Cross Theatre you’re instantly immersed in the story, as actors cart luggage around the refreshments area while waiting to catch their train.

When the time comes for that train to depart, audiences are propelled into the world of Nesbit’s railway-set tale. Director Damian Cruden keeps the youngest attendees – those most eager to see the steam locomotive in all its magnificent glory – hanging, as departing trains are evoked for the majority of the production by moving platforms and flurries of smoke. But I think even the little ones would agree that it only makes the joy of seeing the 60-tonne beast for the first time all the more satisfying.

Trains aside, Mike Kenny’s ingenious adaptation mixes dialogue with first person narration through a retrospective account of events from the perspective of an older Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, cleverly flitting between the two with the help of Joanna Scotcher’s travelling set.

What did the kids like best?

Do you really need to ask? The train was obviously a big hit among last night’s audience members, but this was closely followed by numerous opportunities to practice their most vigorous waving.

In a nutshell?

A joy for adults and children alike, Mike Kenny’s innovative adaptation of this classic tale will take your breath away, even before you set eyes on the 60-tonne locomotive.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@Samanthaspiro Had a glorious, magical evening watching The Railway Children @TRCKingsCross. My girls gave it 5*.

@PaulPhear Crying? No, just a little coal dust in my eye @TRCKingsCross The Railway Children is First Class storytelling and technical marvel-5 stars.

Will my little one like it?

We’ve kind of covered this – yes, the train – but just to clarify, while the imposing engine at the heart of the piece undoubtedly brings with it a lot of excitement, it isn’t all about the train; there is so much more to this magical family hit. From Jeremy Swift’s endearing Mr Perks to Scotcher’s cleverly conjured dark tunnel, The Railway Children really is enchanting theatre for the whole family.

The Railway Children is booking at the King’s Cross Theatre until 6 September. You can book tickets through us or, for performances until 13 February, through our discount ticket promotion Get Into London Theatre.


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