Annapolis actors bring classic ‘The Railway Children’ to King’s Theatre stage
It’s all aboard for the Annapolis & District Drama Group’s spring production of The Railway Children, coming to the stage at King’s Theatre in Annapolis Royal on April 7 to 9.
Edith Nesbit’s classic tale was penned in 1905 and follows the lives and fortunes of three children, Roberta (Bobbie), Peter, and Phyllis Waterbury, whose comfortable middle-class household in the outskirts of Edwardian London is shaken when their father suddenly and mysteriously leaves one evening. Taken by their mother to live more frugally in a remote farmhouse in the Yorkshire moors, they befriend the folks in the village and at the local railway station.
The story will be very familiar to those who have enjoyed Lionel Jeffries’ iconic 1970 film version, which starred Jenny Agutter as Bobbie and Bernard Cribbins as Mr. Perks, the Railway Porter. The play’s director, Simon Bonnington, brought the idea to the drama group a couple of years ago.
“I’ve seen productions of the story before – both as open-air theatre, and in a local playhouse in England,” he said. “There is a stage version currently running at Kings Cross station in London, incorporating a real live steam engine – which clearly wouldn’t work at King’s Theatre.”
That didn’t stop Bonnington. “So I went back to the original text, to Nesbit’s novel, and came up with a brand-new stage adaptation, a script written specifically for the stage at King’s. The drama group loved it, and so here we are.”
Mix of Ages, Experience
Rather than having three young children in the title-roles, the audience will find senior Annapolis West Education Centre students Abigail Bonnington (Bobbie), Sam Cooper (Peter) and Alex Hancock (Phyllis) playing their characters as young adults, telling their childhood story by way of streaming flashbacks and recollections, deftly ‘breaking the fourth wall’ as they switch between roles.
Their rapidly flowing narrative is ably supported by the rest of the cast, including such drama group regulars as Colleen Rowland (Mrs. Waterbury - their mother), and stalwarts Brian Dickinson (Mr. Inglewood, the mumbling and bumptious director of the Great Northern and Southern Railway), and Phil Milo (playing both a director of the railway and Mr. James, the village Blacksmith).
The play brings several new faces to the local stage, amongst them is Miles Leahy, better known as entertainer ‘Milo the Clown,’ who gives a sterling performance as ‘The Old Gentleman,’ to whom the children wave each morning as he passes in the train.
Bonnington’s new adaptation relies upon its innovative and versatile set to be able to whisk the audience along as the scenes change rapidly before their eyes. To further ease these segues, a themed incidental music score has been composed by Dillon Tonkin, local musician and back-stage wizard at the theatre.
In addition, artwork supplied by renowned local artist Connie Lowe-parker graces the production’s eye-catching poster, and the Masonic Lodge and the Annapolis Heritage Society have offered assistance with the loan of period clothing and props.
The children, Phyllis, Bobbie, and Peter Waterbury (Alex Hancock, Abigail Bonnington, Sam Cooper) wave to the 9:15 train in director Simon Bonnington’s stage adaptation of Edith Nesbit’s classic novel The Railway Children. The Annapolis & District Drama Group’s spring production will be on stage at King’s Theatre April 7 to 9.