The Railway Children

Date 17th February 2017
Society Egerton Players
Venue Egerton Millennium Village Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Wendy Thomas
Musical Director Ciara Crossley-Roberts

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

Based on Edith Nesbit’s novel of the early 1900s, during an adventurous summer in the country at Three Chimneys Cottage - a slower pace to ours of late but still containing subjects still topical - welcoming foreigners to our shores, keeping the trains on time, wrongful sentencing, determination to succeed, bravery and kindness.

The hall was welcoming and themed with costumed members on ticketing and programmes, a good photographic ‘who’s who’. Seated at the front gave good viewing of the stage and the four central steps. We were set out the Regulations of Carriage and it was full steam ahead.

Music and good lyrics were a joy, the story which unfolded through Mr Perks, railway porter, and his musical narration. An accomplished three-piece band was headed by Ciara Crossley-Roberts on piano, accompanied by Emily Neighbour and Laura Crossley-Roberts on keyboard and cello. Some characters were radio miked producing good clear sound but everyone in the cast was audible, well-rehearsed and word perfect. Beautiful diction throughout with some great country and foreign accents thrown in for contrast. Good jolly ensemble work together with some tear jerkers.

Excellent set showing a central railway tunnel with embankments either side, station platform stage left complete with white picket fence, flower planter, luggage, and perfect clock face. The family London home and rented cottage set the other – simple but symbolic touches throughout.  The school boys ‘paper chase’ accident in the tunnel brought in the black tabs, again simple but effective and the approaching steam engine was exceedingly well perfected by technical wiz John Sewell.

A well painted and dressed stage using interesting lighting plots created perfect atmospheric pictures with good props such as the lanterns, Christmas tree, an oil lamp standing on the table, medals, bunting and flags.

Period costumes nicely in keeping – good high necked blouses, smart gents, a country doctor, maids black/white uniforms, carol singers.  Footwear was sometimes out of character but worked. The children with their smocks and young Peter in knickerbockers and cap, very good, with Phyllis is her multi coloured beret just right, with the Perks clan not quite so posh and I loved Ginger’s red curls.  Mother’s hair style was of the period – most attractive. Outdoor clothing and headgear also most appropriate. Good work from Sylvia Tillman, Brenda Kent and Margie Stevens.

Wendy may well have had little previous knowledge of this production but with the assistance of Technical Director Neil Crossley-Roberts together with the Lighting and Sound team John and Dave Austin’s well cued noises off and plenty of steam, plus Alan Arthur as SM, we travelled perfectly to time.

Mac Mercer played and sang a charismatic Mr Perks. Andy Fairweather doubled up as Father and Russian speaking Mr Szczepansky.  Shirley Staddon acted and sang her role as Mother both with emotion and total belief.  The three children were a joy. Helen Hocking gave a sparkling confident performance of eldest sister Bobby, with Elliot Carlton brother Peter handling the banners and two sisters rather well and youngest Izzy Carlton, Peter’s real sister, a delightful young Phyllis. Movements were natural. The Perks children were finely drilled and obviously enjoyed their roles taking the mickey out of the ‘posh’ children.  Great fun. Stalwart Chris Stevens was the perfect Old Gentleman who everyone would love as a friend.  Tom Parkin took three cameo roles with ease and other members of the cast became individual convincing cameos concluding with a slick finale.