First published in Lancashire Life 1st June 2018
Theatre Review: Rails
By Ken Powell
Complementing their main stage hilarious farce, Jeeves & Wooster, opening the summer season, Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) have also started with the much more serious (and world premiere) Rails in the intimate studio theatre.
The play, by Simon Longman, abounds in humour and witty commentary on modern teenage life but don’t go expecting an ‘LOL’ experience. Rails is an unashamedly hard-hitting look at life for today’s youth and their expectations for the future. At times it is grim as we’re introduced to the four main characters, their lives and their pain – and this production is not for the faint-hearted.
The story centres around Mike (played by Toby Vaughan), a 16-year-old innocent with a thing for Sarah (Lydea Perkins) who lives opposite. His older brother Ben (Oliver Mott) is angry with life working in a petrol station and he takes his frustration out on Mike. Their mother, Deb (Christine Entwisle) never says anything at all; she just stares at the TV screen. The brilliance of the production is shared equally between all four actors but in different ways: The chemistry between Mike and Sarah is electric; Ben is both frightening and deeply soulful; Deb is eerily always there yet always absent but, yet again, central to the play.
Longman brings us into the heart and soul of each character and we find that each of them feels empty ‘…like a ghost. Just on the inside…‘. But if these are ghosts then they are ones who bleed; and bleed they do throughout the play quite literally, as they take us through their darkest, most fearful moments.
Inevitably with such intense subject matter, we bring our own baggage to the room. If your teenage years were happy and trouble-free, you will struggle to identify with this production. For the rest of us (perhaps majority?), we come away pondering on where our lives matched with these characters. If nothing else, we all knew a Mike, Ben or Sarah. And if you’re a parent…then the ponderings are all the deeper.
Somehow, and I really don’t know how, Simon Longman manages to pull something remarkable out of this deep-burning fire: hope. The play staves off tragedy by a hairbreadth and feels somewhat like having come out of a storm; the dark clouds may still be in the sky but sunlight is definitely breaking through. It’s a fascinating and emotionally stirring production for those brave enough to attend.
‘Rails’ runs until Sat 27 October. For more information on the production visit theatrebythelake.com. To book, call Box Office on 017687 74411.
Social Entrepreneur, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist, D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out soon – don’t miss them!
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org