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The Fletton Railway Children review at the Undercroft, Peterborough – ‘plenty of charm’

Lianne Harvey, Charlotte Ellen and Lewys Taylor in The Fletton Railway Children at the Undercroft, Peterborough. Photo: Mike Kwasniak
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Relocating Edith Nesbit’s classic story to 1960s Peterborough, The Fletton Railway Children is a show with plenty of charm and a strange sort of nostalgic novelty.

The production – which officially inaugurates Eastern Angles’ new Undercroft performance space – retains much of the novel’s jolly, episodic capering, but adds mini dresses, Beatles memorabilia, and subtle references to changing attitudes. Now eldest sister Bobbie has an infatuation with teenage bikers. Her best friend Cheryl practices dancing the Loco-motion in her bedroom before sneaking out on dates.

Director Poppy Rowley has instilled the performance with the breathless silliness of childhood storytelling. Her cast captures the children’s play-acting with consummate skill, bickering over props or the right to play out a particular scene.

Newcomer Lewys Taylor channels all the wholesomeness of a bygone era as train-spotting, stamp-collecting Peter, showing great comic timing in the process. Lianne Harvey plays eldest sister Bobbie with a niggling grain of sadness stowed amongst her boundless enthusiasm, hidden away like the borrowed copy of Sartre she stashes between the pages of her lifestyle magazines.

Fiona Rigler’s design features subtle lines criss-crossing the floor, suggesting a busy rail network where rotating flats are swung around at speed to create a shifting backdrop to the children’s vivid recollections. This dynamic approach dovetails nicely with the themes brought out in Julie Mayhew’s adaptation, which gently repositions the original’s cheerful didacticism as an examination of a time of change, both for people and for their communities.

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Warm hearted adaptation successfully connects Nesbit’s well-loved story to Peterborough’s past