Photos: Tim Hichliffe
One of my greatest pleasures – both now as a journalist and formerly as a teacher – is seeing young people achieving things especially when it includes engagement in the arts. That’s why this show at the Whitstable Playhouse gave me such joy. Not only were there nineteen young people on stage doing a grand job and learning a huge amount even as I watched but, I sat in the audience amongst a Year 7 party from The Whitstable School who were clearly enjoying their evening out. Their teacher (note she was cheerfully and voluntarily working in an evening) told me that quite a few of her charges had never been inside the Playhouse. Win win.
I’m pretty certain this show uses the Mike Kenny adaptation of E Nesbit’s famous novel although, oddly, the programme doesn’t mention this. If not, it was very close to it and yes, we get a good dramatic train moment. No spoilers about how they manage it on a tiny stage with modest production values and a low budget – but the youngsters sitting around me were mesmerised.
It’s more challenging to bring off a straight play than a musical with young inexperienced actors but directors Lucie Nash and Libby Wallace have certainly brought out the best in their cast. Niamh Connolly catches the right blend of childishness, curiosity, and adolescence in Bobbie, Lydia O’Reilly sparkles as Phyllis and Edward Evans who plays Peter is a promising actor – convincing and naturalistic.
Joseph Rowlstone has worked up rather a good Yorkshire accent as Perks and manages the gruff, kindness with plenty of stage presence. George Barber, with a magnificent moustache and nicely studied heightened RP accent, is good as the Old Gentleman too.
There is sometimes a tendency to gabble – borne I think of trying to sound natural which causes occasional “dries” and audibility problems. Bearing in mind that these actors, most in their early teens and some younger, are working unmic’ed in fairly large space this is a very minor quibble. This production of The Railway Children is a fine example of what a youth group can do and I’m very glad to have seen it.