Cast members from The Railway Children, at the Apollo Theatre, Newport. From left, Jessica Morey, Kendal Dollery, Kate Wilkinson, Carl Burch, Hebe Gregory and Susan Simpson. Picture by Peter Boam.
STAGE REVIEW WHEN it came to talent and the ability to entertain, the Apollo Players went full steam ahead with their latest production — a glorious adaptation of The Railway Children.
Mike Kenny’s adaptation of Edith Nesbit’s classic 1906 children’s novel was superbly realised and acted from start to finish, which, I would hope, unearthed some early candidates for accolades at next year’s IW Amateur Theatre Awards.
In this version, told in flashback, the director enhanced the story with clever edits or challenged the audience to use a little imagination with certain scenes, where the logistics made it impossible to stage them in a more comprehensive way.
Cast members, from time to time, talked the audience through parts of the tale in a way that managed to enhance the production.
All they had on stage to work with were piles of suitcases but that really didn’t seem to matter, as the actors used it to their advantage, be it a scene at the railway station, at Three Chimneys or at the abode of station porter Albert Perks.
The three children were played admirably by Hebe Gregory (Bobbie), Carl Burch (Peter) and Susan Simpson (Phyllis), who all gelled remarkably well throughout.
The differences between their high-quality performances could hardly be separated.
Christian Manderfield was perfect in the role of Perks — capturing the character’s kindness, sense of humour, humanity and pride. For me, it was (and it was a close-run thing) the show’s stand-out performance.
Rebecca Brough, as the children’s mother, Peter Boffin as the Old Gentleman and Maria Wilkinson as Mrs Perks, carved important niches, though I found Maria’s cries of happiness, when the children brought birthday gifts for her husband, a little over-long.
Despite all the obvious stage restrictions, the crew used sound and lighting effects well with the drama of scenes, particularly with the paper chase and rockfall and used a simple, ingenious, home-made train made from a cylinder on runners with a smoke machine.