The Railway Children is currently playing at Malvern Theatres until Sunday 27 August, book tickets here: Railway Children Tickets before continuing on a UK tour.
I chatted to Joy Brook who is playing the Mother in the show…
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Joy, tell me about the piece and your character.
The Railway Children was written by E Nesbit in 1905, and tells the story of a wealthy family living in London and when the father mysteriously disappears, they are forced to sell up and move to a small village in Yorkshire where the three Children (Roberta, Phyllis and Peter) and their mother, discover a whole new way of life, and have lots of adventures along the way.
I play the Mother, who unlike many women of the time, although respectable, is also quite bohemian in her thinking. She effectively becomes a single parent, and whilst hiding the secret of where their father has gone, tries to teach the children through example, how to treat other people with generosity, and kindness. She does seem to be based upon E Nesbit, and certainly her politics echo the author’s thoughts.
What was your initial impression of the script?
I have always loved the book of the Railway Children, having read it when I was very young, and of course the famous film adaptation starring Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins seemed to be a staple every Christmas. So I read the script, with a slight amount of trepidation (… nobody wants to have their memories crushed), but found myself turning the pages and loving it.
Was it easy to translate from page to stage?
We are helped enormously by having the dream team of the Director, Paul Jepson, and Designer Timothy Bird. Together, their vision for the show brings everything to life. We obviously can’t have a real steam engine on stage, but Tim’s design is wonderful, and without giving anything away, the audience will see lots of trains in this production! The story itself lends itself beautifully to the stage, and the adaptation by Dave Simpson won’t disappoint anyone familiar with the story already.
Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?
I remember watching the film when I was younger, and loving Dinah Sheridan as mother, so it was such a wonderful opportunity to get to play this character. In rehearsals it became very clear that Mother is not the typical Edwardian lady of the time. She is intelligent and resourceful, and whilst hiding the secret of their father’s disappearance, turns the children’s new life into an adventure. There is wonderful warmth to the character, and finding the energy of the character was the key for me.
How does the space lend itself to the piece?
Our stage has to be many things. A railway station, a cottage, a railway tunnel, the rolling Yorkshire dales, and the railway line where the children are faced with trying to prevent a train crash – so it has to be adaptable. Our design takes the audience to all of these places, with the use of design trickery…. truly magical.
What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?
The wonderful thing about the railway children is that it truly appeals to all the family. Children love the story (and the trains!) And parents will find all the elements that they loved in the film. It is a beautifully told story that will make you laugh and cry. It is a story that has resonated through the years, and in today’s politically fractured climate, it is proving to be especially relevant. Now that’s not bad for a family show!
Thanks so much for a wonderful interview, Joy – all the best with the tour.