BLOG: Making Tracks #2

BLOG: Making Tracks #2

Action stations!

SUP director Paul Green explains why he wanted to direct The Railway Children – and his vision for this immersive production

I’ve been keen to direct this particular adaptation of The Railway Children for quite some time. Let me explain why.

Photo 07-10-2018, 16 07 19

Paul Green is directing THE RAILWAY CHILDREN for SUP Theatre Company

First, the place that its author E. Nesbit and this particular story hold in popular culture.

I read my first E. Nesbit  book at the age of nine and read virtually all her books in the next three years.

They were completely different from anything I had read before. As the previous blog explained, Edith Nesbit was a genuine trailblazer for what we now recognise as ‘modern children’s literature’. The genre, as we know it today, didn’t really exist before ‘Daisy’ got cracking.

Her style, structure, her approach and the way she presented her characters led the way, and many others followed in her wake. 

And for generations of adults, the 1970 film version starring Jenny Agutter, beautifully directed by Lionel Jeffries, is a touchstone for their childhood. It’s still a family favourite.

I felt we could not only bring the story to a new audience in Southampton, for all ages, but that we could also do something interesting and a little different with this well-known and much-loved story.

Railway

SUP is promising “an immersive experience”

Which brings me to the second reason I wanted to tackle this story: this adaptation by Mike Kenny.

It was first produced as a site-specific piece at York Railway Museum, featuring a live steam train. The show then moved into London for two highly successful runs, at Waterloo station and then Kings Cross. Both, again, featured a steam locomotive.

His main surprise was that the children are played by adults (20 year olds),  to emphasise the family aspects and the humour that runs through the whole play.

We have a few surprises up our own sleeves. We plan to recreate ‘The Golden Age of Steam’ live on the NST Campus stage with an immersive experience, in the same way we created that distinctive atmosphere for our Agatha Christie production – but it’s the writing that really marks this adaptation out.

It’s fast moving and it’s funny. It moves along at a cracking pace like, well, like a train.

The structure is clever, and the dialogue directly involves the audience. As a result, we feel emotionally invested in the story. It really is for people of all ages.

It has some marvellous moments. Twinges of sadness, flashes of anger, moments of tenderness.

All the characters are beautifully drawn, in particular the central trio of children. If you haven’t seen this version, I think you’ll love it. (And we also have some fantastic actors rehearsing their socks off right now.)

My overall vision for the show is based on open staging with very fluid changes, projections, and fast-paced action, with evocative lighting and special effects. The emphasis is on fun and, for the cast, team work.

I want to give audiences a dynamic experience, gathering them up and taking them through the story. With a few surprises along the way.

So, how am I going to tackle the set-pieces on stage, those moments you may remember from the book or the film?

The simple answer is “you’ll have to wait and see”. But expect imaginative and inventive effects.

We are planning to give you the sense, sounds and visuals of a full-sized steam locomotive coming your way. We want you to feel a part of it. Expect immersive sound, lighting and special effects. We’re working hard to present the landslide in a very interesting way. The five-bar gate the children watch the trains from is the easy part.

Hope to see you there!


SUP proudly presents THE RAILWAY CHILDREN at NST Campus, 22-25 January 2020 – matinee on Sat 25th Jan

Book now: call 023 8067 1771 or click here

Tickets from just £10

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BLOG: Making Tracks #1

Welcome to The Three Chimneys

SUP Theatre Company is taking audiences back to the Golden Age of Steam: SUP co-chair Stephen Fenerty introduces our January 2020 show and its author.

E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children is an acknowledged classic. Originally serialised in The London Magazine in 1905, it made its debut as a book the following year.

The story, in case you didn’t know, is about an Edwardian family forced to relocate from London to a house near the railway line in Yorkshire – the house is called The Three Chimneys – after the father, a high ranking civil servant at the Foreign Office, is imprisoned after being accused of spying.

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A classic image from the 1970 film version of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN

The narrative follows the central trio of children – Bobbie (Roberta), Peter and Phil (Phyllis) – in their various adventures and with the colourful characters they meet in and around the railway.

The book mentions the then-current Russo-Japanese war, which dates the events to spring, summer and autumn of 1905.

The railway setting is believed to have been inspired by the author’s walks to Chesfield railway station in the London Borough of Bromley, near where she lived, and her observing construction of the railway cutting and tunnel.

Described by her biographer as “the first modern writer for children”, Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books. Incidentally, even though her name was Edith, she was always known as Daisy.

E.Nesbit

Edith Nesbit – ‘Daisy’

A follower of the Marxist designer, poet and novelist William Morris, she was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organisation that was later affiliated to the Labour Party.

The Railway Children is perhaps her most famous work, closely followed by The Story of the Treasure Seekers and Five Children and It.

Noël Coward was an admirer of her work, writing that she had “an economy of phrase, and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside.”

The Railway Children has been adapted for the screen six times, including three serialisations on the BBC in the 1950s and 1960s, and a TV movie in 2000. The most famous version is Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 film. Jenny Agutter played Bobbie in both the BBC’s 1968 and the 1970 film version—and was re-cast as Mother for the TV movie in 2000.

The Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation being presented by SUP at NST Campus in January 2020 was first staged in 2008 and 2009 at the National Railway Museum in York, and later enjoyed highly successful runs at London’s Waterloo and Kings Cross rail stations.

Almost one hundred years after her death, E. Nesbit’s work is still with us, and continues to delight successive generations of children. As her biographer Noel Streatfeild wrote:

“When an author dies, as E. Nesbit did in 1924, too often their books are forgotten. This did not happen in her case, for the books have gone on, loved by generation after generation of children. Not all her books were great, but enough were for her name to belong forever to children’s literature.”


SUP presents THE RAILWAY CHILDREN at NST Campus, 22-25 January 2020

Book now: call 023 8067 1771 or click here

Tickets from just £10

Railway