Eastern Angles have a reputation for putting their own stamp on well-known stories.
Earlier this year, hundreds of people flocked to Nene Park to see the company’s atmospheric version of Arthur Ransome’s We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, performed in a pop-up theatre tent.
Now the theatre-makers have turned their attention to E. Nesbit’s much-loved classic, The Railway Children.
Staged in Eastern Angles’ new performance space, The Undercroft, this brand new version of the story, entitled The Fletton Railway Children, will transport the familiar characters to Peterborough during the 1960s.
When Eastern Angles were looking for someone to take on the adaptation, they soon realised that award-winning writer Julie Mayhew was the perfect choice. Not only was Julie was born and educated in Peterborough, her family background gives her a unique insight into the world of the railways.
“My family is steeped in the railways,” says Julie. “My grandfather Sidney ‘Dick’Mayhew started working on the railways as a horse boy when he was 13 and met my grandmother, Olive, the baker’s daughter, in Shepeau Stow, when he was running deliveries from Postland station. He finished his railways career as the foreman of the goods yard at the now-gone Peterborough East Station.
“My father was a young trainspotter,” she continues, “collecting numbers with his brothers at the Peterborough Fairground and at Hicks Lane, and I was taken to every preserved railway in the UK! I even did a stint on the Nene Valley Railway as a kid, being a fairy helper on the Santa Specials.
“I never knew my grandfather because he died when I was two years old, but I have discovered so much about him while researching The Fletton Railway Children. I’ve even given him a role in the play.”
Eastern Angles have a special affinity with Peterborough. Over the last eight years the theatre company have created a whole raft of work including 13 new plays especially commissioned for Peterborough audiences. Many will remember the company’s popular ‘New Town musical’ Parkway Dreams which charted the history of the Peterborough Development Corporation. Now, with the establishment of The Undercroft, in the basement of Serpentine Green Shopping Centre, the company are keen to produce more work with a Peterborough focus.
For Julie Mayhew, the play’s Peterborough setting makes perfect sense. “Peterborough has such a long-standing relationship with the railways. By 1900 one in four people were working on the railways. Yet, as one of the characters in my play says, Peterborough is just seen as a station you go through or get stuck at, not a place you purposely stop. I hope this play will change some attitudes about that.”
The Fletton Railway Children, can be seen at The Undercroft, Serpentine Green, between October 26th and November 5th. For tickets visit: www.easternangles.co.uk