Synopsis | Cast | Creative | The Novel


E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children tells the story of the Waterburys, who live a comfortable life in a beautiful, suburban London home – with servants, a cook and all the luxuries enjoyed by an upper- middle-class, storybook Edwardian family – until the terrible day that Father, who works for the Foreign Office, is arrested and taken away to prison, falsely accused of espionage. Disgraced and plunged into poverty, the family moves to “Three Chimneys”, a poor cottage in the country that sits beside a railway line. The Waterbury children – Roberta (Bobbie), Peter and Phyllis – must get used to doing without many of the pleasures they once took for granted and must learn to create their own amusements, One of their favourite pastimes becomes watching the trains that run by their house and waving to the passengers. They become enamored with everything to do with trains and strike up friendships with everyone in the area associated in any way with the railroad – especially with Albert, the porter at the local station, and “the Old Gentleman”, a passenger who waves to them as he whizzes daily by in his private carriage, pulled by the locomotive the children call “the Green Dragon”.

The children experience many exciting adventures up and down the tracks and along the nearby canal, one of which threatens the Green Dragon itself and leads them to a face-to-face meeting with the Old Gentleman, who will play a more important role in all their lives than they could have ever imagined.


Starring, as the children, are three young actors who have already had great success. Natasha Greenblatt will play Bobbie, Harry Judge will play Peter, and Kate Besworth will play Phyllis. Emma Campbell will play the children’s Mother, and Craig Warnock will play Perks, the railway porter whom the children befriend.

John Gilbert will play the Old Gentleman and Richard Sheridan Willis will play the children’s Father. Doug MacLeod will play Schepansky. Also starring Aris Athanasopoulos, Alison Deon, Sarah English, Kelly Penner, Laura Schutt and Marilla Wex.


Mike Kenny – Writer

Mike Kenny is one of the England’s leading writers, specialising in young people’s theatre. He is the recipient of numerous awards, was included in the Independent on Sunday’s list of Top Ten Living UK Playwrights and his plays are performed regularly throughout the UK and all over the world.

Current productions and commissions include original play Cartoon for Polka Theatre, London; Scarecrow for AJTC; Great Gran and the Olympics for Pied Piper; new adaptation of Wind in the Willows for York Theatre Royal; Aladdin for West Yorkshire Playhouse; radio play adapted from Marilyne Robinson’s Gilead for Catherine Bailey Productions/BBC Radio 4.

Damian Cruden – Director

Damian has been Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal for the past twelve years. He has directed many productions including: Up The Duff, The Homecoming, The White Crow(Eichmann in Jerusalem), Death of a Salesman, The Railway Children, Patient No. 1, Enjoy, Bouncers 2007 Remix, The Dumb Waiter, The Hare and the Tortoise (in York and Japan), Pygmalion, Broken Glass, East Is East, Hay Fever, Macbeth, A Cloud in Trousers, Brassed Off, Caitlin, A Taste of Honey, Habeas Corpus, Up’n’Under, Frankenstein, Noises Off, Little Shop of Horrors, Othello, Closer, The Turn of the Screw, Bedevilled, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kafka’s Dick, Man of the Moment, Having a Ball, Romeo and Juliet, Getting On, The Three Musketeers, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, All My Sons, Piaf, Dead Funny, Educating Rita, Frankie and Johnnie at the Clair de Lune, Neville’s Island, Multiplex, Abandonment and Private Lives. He has co-directed the last 10 York Theatre Royal pantos with Berwick Kaler.

Before York, Damian worked for various regional theatres as a freelance director. He was Associate Director for Hull Truck in the early ’90s and prior to that Co-Artistic Director of the Liverpool Everyman Youth Theatre. He worked for The Tron and TAG in Scotland and was a tutor for the Scottish Youth Theatre. He trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama between 1982 and 1986.

Joanna Scotcher- Designer

Joanna completed a graduate design apprenticeship with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She received the York Prize for Theatre Design and was commissioned to design Patient Number One and the original site-specific version of The Railway Children at The National Railway Museum. Her work has specialised in promenade and site responsive design, including Counted?, County Hall Debating Chamber & West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Caravan; The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, The Roundhouse History; The Roundhouse and Economy; Battersea Arts Centre, with Look Left Look Right Company. Her design for Platform, Old Vic New Voices, is due to Open at the Old Vic Tunnels, Waterloo in the winter of 2010. Her other design work includes Inches Apart; Old Vic New Voices Award at Theatre 503, Cardboard Dad; Sherman Cymru Theatre, Rattle & Roll, Open Clasp, Live Theatre & UK Tour, Wagstaffe; Mercury Theatre, Paradise; Sheffield Crucible Theatre, The Spidermen; National Theatre, Cottesloe, Wired, The Kings Head Theatre, Blooded, New Perspectives Theatre Company and costumes for Don Juan Comes Back From the War; The Belgrade Theatre.


Richard G. Jones – Lighting Designer

Richard first lit the The Railway Children at The National Railway Museum York for which he was nominated for a TMA Theatre Award for Best Lighting Design. He also lit the actor musician Broadway Production of Sweeney Todd at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, for which he won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design and was also nominated for an Outer Circle Critics Award.

Richard has worked extensively at York Theatre Royal and recent work includes The Homecoming, Twelfth Night, Death of a Salesman, A Man for all Seasons, Three Men in a Boat, and Twinkle Little Star. Richard’s West End work includes Sunset Boulevard, Mack and Mabel, The Gondoliers, Female Parts, When Pigs Fly, Carmen and Horrid Henry Live and Horrid. UK national tours include Beautiful Thing, Wuthering Heights, Rasputin, Candide, Canterbury Tales, Sweeney Todd and Spongebob Squarepants the sponge that could fly!

Richard has recently lit City of Angels for the Bridewell Theatre, The Hot Mikado, for The Watermill Theatre Newbury; A Pair of Pinters, at the Guildhall Theatre for Derby Live; Behudfor the B2 Coventry and Soho Theatre London. Richard is currently working on designs for The Hired Man for the Octagon Theatre Bolton; West Side Story for GSA at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford, Amy’s View for Nottingham Playhouse, Copacabana for the Watermill Theatre Newbury and Celebrating Christmas 2010 for the Salvation Army at the Royal Albert Hall.

Christopher Madin – Composer and Musical Director

With over 25 years experience Chris has written original scores for more than 150 productions for theatre, film, television and Radio. Collaborations at the Theatre Royal, York include: Twelfth Night, Death of a Salesman, The Railway Children, A Man for All Seasons, Rabbit and Hedgehog, Pinocchio, Bouncers, Broken Glass, Pygmalion, Hobson’s Choice, Macbeth, The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, Brassed Off, The Pocket Dream, A Taste Of Honey, Caitlin, Private Lives, Abandonment, All My Sons, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, The Blue Room, The Three Musketeers, Behind The Scenes At The Museum, The Chrysalids, Habeas Corpus, Up ‘n’ Under, The Glass Menagerie, Frankenstein, The Snow Queen, Having A Ball, Disco Pigs and Romeo And Juliet. Credits for other theatres include: Steptoe And Son In Murder At Oil Drum Lane, Comedy Theatre West End, The Crucible, Bolton Octagon; A Cloud In Trousers, Southwark Playhouse, Ay Carmela, Shaw Theatre London, The Lifeblood, Edinburgh Festival and The Riverside Studios; Romeo And Juliet, Tidelines Frog and Toadand The Snow Queen, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield; Passion Killers, Up ‘n’ Under 2, Bouncersand Laurel And Hardy, Hull Truck Theatre; Beauty And The Beast, Chester Gateway and Misery, King’s Head.

Chris was also a long time collaborator with Compass Theatre Company having written over 15 shows, including acclaimed tours of Moby Dick and Hard Times .

His work for television and radio includes: Two Lives, One Body for ITN; Behind The Scenes At The Museum, The Midnight House and the classic serialisation of The Midwich Cuckoos(nominated for the 2004 Sony International Radio Drama Awards) all for BBC Radio Four.

Chris also works in the corporate and commercials sector (including the latest Fisherman’s Friend TV campaign) and has held workshops at The Globe and for the National Youth Theatre. His corporate work has toured throughout Europe and Australia.

Most recently he has been commissioned to write the music for 3 films for Save the Childrenand Safepoint charities, promoting safe injections in the third world. The first of which Satchin, has played in every cinema across India.

Chris was also Artist in Residence at University College Bretton Hall for three years.


E. Nesbit, author of The Railway Children: She wrote about the children, never for them.

Edith Nesbit was born in 1858, in London, into a well-to-do family that, like the Waterburys of The Railway Children, fell into reduced circumstances with the loss of the family breadwinner – her father died just before her fourth birthday.

The Nesbits moved often, finally settling in the country, near Halstead, in rural Kent, the location that would later inspire The Railway Children.

In 1877, Edith married a bank clerk, Hubert Bland, who was very active in the progressive politics of the day. Together, they were among the founders of the Fabian Society, a precursor to the modern Labour Party.

Among their close friends – and fellow Fabians – who often gathered at their home throughout the 1880s and ’90s were the writers George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Sydney and Beatrice Webb and psychologist Havelock Ellis.

Edith began writing fiction and poetry for publication in magazines while still in her teens, and the small amounts of money her writing brought in was sorely needed during the first years of her marriage.

Around 1899, Edith Nesbit turned with great reward to writing children’s stories that – although filled with elements of fantasy, time travel and spies, fairy tales and magic – were distinguished from those of her contemporaries in that they often dealt with very realistic and believable children facing very real hardships –as one critic noted, “The tough truths to be won from encounters with things-as-they-are.”

She has been called “the first modern writer of children’s fiction” and her works have been cited as a strong influence by many authors who have followed her, from P.L. Travers (Mary Poppins) to C.S. Lewis (the Narnia books) to today’s J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter).

Among her greatest admirers have been the playwright Noël Coward – who said, “She had an economy of phrase, and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside.” – and the novelist Gore Vidal, who wrote, “After Lewis Carroll, E. Nesbit is the best of the English fabulists who wrote about children (neither wrote for children) and like Carroll she was able to create a world of magic and inverted logic that was entirely her own”

With her success as a writer, she moved to a grand country house outside the picturesque village of St. Mary’s Bay, on the Kentish coast. She died there in 1924.

Want to know more about the works of E. Nesbit?

Here are the classic books for children by Edith Nesbit that are still in print, 87 years after her death: The Book of Dragons, The Enchanted Castle, The Five Children and It, Five of Us and Madeline, Harding’s Luck, The House of Arden, The Magic City, The Magic World, The Treasure Seekers, Nine Unlikely Tales, Oswald Bastable and Others, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Railway Children, The Story of the Amulet, Wet Magic, The Wonderful Garden and The Wouldbegoods.

When I was a little child I used to pray fervently, tearfully, that when I should be grown up I might never forget what I thought and felt and suffered then.
– Edith Nesbit