THIS Easter Monday, 400 cinemas nationwide will screen The Railway Children, Ross MacGibbon's film of last summer's York Theatre Royal production in the Signal Box Theatre at the National Railway Museum.
The 128-minute film captures writer Mike Kenny and artistic director Damian Cruden’s imaginative stage adaptation of E. Nesbit’s novel and features the original locomotive from Lionel Jeffries' 1970 film.
The Railway Children follows the story of Roberta, Peter and Phyllis, three sheltered siblings who suffer a huge upheaval when their father, who works for the Foreign Office, is taken away from their London home and falsely imprisoned. The children and their mother, now penniless, are forced to move from London to rural Yorkshire near a railway line.
Wondering if their missing father will ever return to heal their fractured family, the children embark on a series of misadventures around the railway, forging a friendship with station master Albert Perks in a story of justice, the importance of family and the kindness of strangers.
“It’s phenomenally contemporary when you read it,” says Mike Kenny, whose adaptation was first staged at the NRM in 2008 and subsequently transferred to London's Waterloo Station and King's Cross and Toronto in Canada.
“It has the wrongful arrest, the selling of state secrets. There’s a mother taking the children a long way away and not communicating with them about it. The children end up building relationships with people they’d normally never have met, so there’s an interesting class tension there.”
The last two performances last summer were filmed with seven cameras by a team that had to navigate the moving platforms, props and rail carts to capture every moment of Cruden's fast-paced revival starring Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey as Roberta, Izaak Cainer as Peter and Beth Lilly as Phyllis. Theatre Royal pantomime stalwart Martin Barrass took the role of station master Albert Perks.
Beth Lilly as Phyllis, left, Izaak Cainer as Peter and Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey as Roberta in The Railway Children. Picture: Anthony Robling
International Emmy award winner Ross MacGibbon directs the film as the latest of his stage-to-screen adaptations after Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest with David Suchet as Lady Bracknell and Measure For Measure from Shakespeare's Globe in London.
“Damian Cruden's captivating production, steeped in nostalgia, is filled with moments of despair, joy, kindness and hope," says MacGibbon. "I think audiences of all ages will respond to its family drama, timeless characters and their individual stories.”
The film is produced by Anne Beresford and Debbie Gray, of Genesius Pictures, who both produced Maxine Peake as Hamlet and Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach, both shown in British cinemas and on British television.
The Railway Children film production received investment from Screen Yorkshire through the Yorkshire Content Fund and will be shown in 406 cinemas on Easter Monday, carrying a U certificate.
In North Yorkshire, there will be 3pm screenings at City Screen, York, and Vue, York (plus an autism-friendly Vue show on Tuesday at 6.30pm); Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough; Curzon, Ripon, and Station Cinema, Richmond. Pocklington Arts Centre has a 1pm show; the Palace Cinema, Malton, has two shows, at 4.15pm on Monday and 4.30pm on April 10, and the Forum, Northallerton, presents a 7pm show on March 31.
East Yorkshire's screenings will be at 3pm on Easter Monday at Cineworld, Hull, and Vue, Hull Princes Quay, and at 2.30pm on Wednesday at Spotlight, Bridlington.
For tickets and details of alternative and additional dates, go to railwaychildrenfilm.com