Justin Fletcher, aka TV’s Mr Tumble, and the CBeebies star of Justin’s House and Something Special, is performing in the hit stage version of E. E. Nesbitt’s The Railway Children.
It’s not pantomime season. The Railway Children, at the King’s Cross Theatre, London, is a critically acclaimed performance, with serious themes running through a poignant storyline (you can read our original review of the show here). Would casting an actor who plays a charismatic and sometimes buffoonish TV character, drown out the subtle grace of the show?
I was in Paris on the day of Justin Fletcher’s press performance, so I couldn’t attend, but I was curious to find out how he might impact on the show. Despite my misgivings, I’d been pleasantly surprised that Stig of the Dump at the West End Arts Theatre hadn’t been overwhelmed by the on-stage presence of Katy Ashworth, also a CBeebies star. So I sent my journalist friend Courtney Daniel to the event, to get the low-down on Justin. Here’s what she thought.
Exciting, emotional and awesome were some of the words we came up with to describe The Railway Children.
Before the performance, I thought my children (aged 4 and 6) may be a little young for it, but from the moment we walked into the foyer, set up as an old station waiting room, they were entranced. It helped that Justin Fletcher of Cbeebies fame was in the show as Mr Perks. When he first came on to the stage, my youngest behaved like an audience member of Justin’s House, shouting “Justin” very loudly. But after the initial thrill, she became involved in the action, and his Yorkshire accent helped her forget her TV associations.
Although the themes are quite adult – coping with poverty, charity and loss – they are dealt with in a way that makes it easy for the children to follow.
We had heard a rumour that a real train would make an appearance, and when it did it was a suitably heart-stopping moment, with all the audience catching their collective breath.
My eldest daughter empathised with Bobby, beautifully acted by Sophie Ablett, whilst the youngest liked Phyllis and of course Perks, who came on in the interval and did some rather impressive broom balancing on his chin. An added highlight for her was meeting Fletcher at the end, who was charming and patient.
Even my husband, who is not a theatre-goer and mainly reads science fiction, was impressed by the show, and admitted to welling up at a couple of points. On the whole, highly recommended as a play the whole family can enjoy.
So, there we have it. I’m reassured that the Railway Children’s strength as a show and Fletcher’s acting proficiency work well together, rather than introducing tensions into what was otherwise a magnificent experience.
Thanks, Courtney and family, for letting us know.
Justin Fletcher will star as Mr Perks in The Railway Children at King’s Cross Theatre until 19 November 2016. The show is currently booking until 8 January 2017. Tickets range from £25-£49.50, with 25% off for under-16s and premium seats available at £69.50.
Courtney Daniel and her family were offered press tickets for the purpose of this post. No financial transaction was made.