“The Railway Children” at the King’s Cross Theatre

Boasting a purpose-built theatre and a real-life steam train, York Theatre Royal’s adaptation of E Nesbit’s children’s classic is an extravagant family treat. Even the waiting area is a delight – a retro theme-park-style refreshments room that serves as a place for youngsters to let off steam. There’s no bad behaviour inside, though. I can report that this clever adaptation is a hit with the kids.

The work of Mike Kenny, the show isn’t just a question of nostalgia – and a big tick for that. The story of three youngsters, whose father mysteriously goes away after a visit from some policemen, forced into poverty and a move to the country, is told with clarity. Damian Cruden’s direction uses the railway platforms and moving stages on the tracks to great effect: the cast is constantly on the move.

There’s a lot of waving.

It must be dispiriting for any performer to be upstaged by a steam train, but it has to be admitted that the locomotive is impressive. Nonetheless, Serena Manteghi, Jack Hardwick and Louise Calf play the children skilfully. They engage their audience conscientiously and have stronger roles than the adults in the piece.

To be fair, the humour is very much aimed at children. There’s little effort to create a wider appeal – unusual nowadays – but it’s a consistently applied decision that pays dividends. A room full of attentive under-tens is not to be underestimated and a calculated price worth paying for leaving adults a little restless at times.


Until 8 January 2017