Here’s looking at choo choo
The wife of train robber Ronnie Biggs gets to tell her story, writes Colin Vickery
THE opening minutes of Mrs Biggs make the relationship between Ronnie Biggs and his future wife Charmian Powell look idyllic.
It’s 1957, when the pair meets on a London train. Ronnie, played by Daniel Mays, wins Charmian (Sheridan Smith) over with his laddish charm.
Charmian is a staid office worker who once had hopes of going to university. Ronnie tries to hide the fact that he is a tradesman and a petty criminal. ‘‘ Flash Harry’’, one of his co-workers calls him.
Ronnie is the polar opposite of Charmian’s strict father, Bernard, a headmaster. Maybe that is what makes him so attractive.
The romance is like a daydream. The music swirls, everything is bathed in a golden glow.
History tells us the good times won’t last. Six years later, Ronnie, in debt, takes part in one of the most famous crimes in British history — The Great Train Robbery.
The consequences devastate Charmian. Ronnie is eventually caught and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Charmian was a consultant to the production.
‘‘ I knew about Ronnie Biggs, but I didn’t know Charmian’s side of the story at all,’’ Smith says.
‘‘ When you first think of Mrs Biggs — the Great Train Robber’s wife — you think of a gangster’s moll, but she is an amazing woman. She stood by him for a long time, hoping it (marriage) might change, really wanting it to work.’’
Charmian goes on the run with Ronnie and their two children after he escapes from Wandsworth Prison.
Later, Charmian and her family secretly travel to Australia on false passports.
‘‘ The first part of the series was filmed in the UK and then suddenly we’re in the boiling South Australian outback covered in flies with nothing for miles around,’’ Smith says.
‘‘ It gave you a feeling of how they must have felt all those years ago. It must have been scary for Charmian when she arrived on her own with Ups and downs: Sheridan Smith plays Charmian Biggs in