Watermill Senior Youth Theatre - The Railway Children
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Watermill Senior Youth Theatre - The Railway Children

6th to 9th April 2016.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Not a dry eye in the house

Youth theatre make Railway Children classic all their own

The Watermill Senior Youth Theatre: The Railway Children, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, April 6 to Saturday, April 9

Although Edith Nesbit's classic story was published more than 100 years ago, today's children can still relate to the characters she drew so vividly. The Railway Children was ideal as a showcase for the talents of the Watermill's Senior Youth Theatre.

Everyone remembers those three emotive words forever connected with Jenny Agutter, but they come at the end and there was much to enjoy before then. Much of the dialogue was funny and the performers brought out this humour well, without losing any of the pathos which the story demands.

The three children were played by different actors as they grew older. Phyllis (Phoebe Reid/Courtney Renoui), Peter (Dylan Morris/Michael Seath – a particularly good performance) and Bobbie (Matilda Beresford/Thea Manton/Lilia Norman) each captured their characters superbly and the transitions were handled seamlessly.

Before taking over as the oldest daughter, Lilia Norman also became the narrator, an enormous role which she played sensitively, virtually always on stage (the performance was in the round) but never blocking the action.

There were a very few incidences of words being drowned, but this was never a problem with the main family, who carried out their conversations so naturally it seemed as though the audience was eavesdropping.

Another exceptional and mature performance came from Robyn Luke as the children's mother, beset with the difficulties of being poor, but encouraging her children, saying that they would have "the best fun in the world".

With good support from all the lesser parts – I particularly liked Josie Embleton (Mrs Viney), Lloyd Clements Hart as Perks and Sam Harris as the Old Gentleman – this performance needed no embellishments such as the real steam train which appeared in another production. The Watermill became a station yard and when the sound effects signified a train approaching, that excitement which heralds arrivals reached the audience too.

Creating the 'busy' scenes when all 28 characters were coming and going on and off the stage must have taken much rehearsing, but it ensured everything went smoothly.

This adaptation by Beth Flintoff, directed by Heidi Bird and with the talented, clever members of the Senior Youth Theatre, provided an entirely enjoyable and memorable evening right up to those get-your-hanky-out words: "Daddy, my Daddy!"

As one of the audience said: "We didn't miss Jenny Agutter at all."

CAROLINE FRANKLIN