Shaun Williamson to play Perks in The Railway Children in London
January 11, 2016  //  By:   //  News  //  Comments are off

Shaun Williamson will join the cast of the Olivier Award-winning production of Mike Kenny’s stage adaptation of E. Nesbit’s novel The Railway Children – Live on Stage at the same time as the show celebrates its first anniversary at King’s Cross Theatre in London. Shaun will play Mr Perks from Saturday 16 January.

The Railway Children opened at the King’s Cross Theatre to critical and public acclaim on 14 January 2015, following previews from 16 December 2014.

Shaun Williamson is best known for playing Barry Evans in EastEnders, a role he played for nine years. With Ricky Gervais he starred in two series of Extras and Life’s Too Short. Most recently on television, he appeared in the US mini-series Houdini with Adrien Brody, and guest starred in ITV’s Plebs. On film, he has appeared in Daylight Robbery and Ricky Gervais’s The Invention of Lying.  In the theatre, he made his West End debut in Saturday Night Fever playing Monty the DJ. He has starred as Nathan Detroit on tour in Guys & Dolls and played the Narrator in The Rocky Horror Show. Recent theatre includes Fletch in the tour of Porridge and Louis in The Ladykillers and he starred opposite Max Irons in Farragut North at the Southwark Playhouse.

Also joining the cast of The Railway Children on 16 January will be Sophie Ablett as Bobbie, Beth Lilly as Phyllis, Matt Jessup as Peter and Lindsay Allen as Mrs Perks. Sophie Ablett and Beth Lilly are both making their West End debuts with The Railway Children. Sophie has just graduated from Oxford University, after taking a year out to study at École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in France. She recently finished shooting Taboo, a new mini-series starring Tom Hardy, for BBC1/FX. Last year, Beth played Phyllis in the York Theatre Royal production of The Railway Children at the National Railway Museum in York.  She also appeared in the opening episode of ITV’sGrantchester.  Matt Jessup was the winner of the Society of London Theatre’s 2014 Laurence Olivier Bursary Award.  Having only recently graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Matt’s theatre credits include Timon of Athens (National Theatre) and Orpheus & Eurydice(Old Vic Tunnels).

The new cast members will join Caroline Harker as Mother, Peter Gardiner as Doctor/Butler, Mark Hawkins as Jim/District Super, Connie Hyde as Mrs Viney, Blair Plant as Father/Schepansky, and Moray Treadwell as the Old Gentleman, as well as Helen Brampton, Rebecca Brierley, Timothy George and Daniel Griffin, plus a children’s ensemble made up of three teams of ten children aged between 9 and 15.

A purpose built 1,000-seat theatre, complete with a railway track and platforms, and with a state of the art air conditioning and heating system, was specially created for this production on King’s Boulevard, behind King’s Cross Station, a site which has been loaned to the production for the duration of the run by Google. The York Theatre Royal production, which is in association with the National Railway Museum, features a live steam locomotive and a vintage carriage, originally built in 1896.

The production at King’s Cross Theatre is in support of the Railway Children Charity that aims to help homeless and runaway children throughout the world, with £1 per ticket donated to the charity. To date, £335,000 has been raised by the theatre production since its West End debut in 2010.

Directed by Damian Cruden, the Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal, with design by Joanna Scotcher, lighting by Richard G. Jones, music by Christopher Madin and sound by Craig Vear, Mike Kenny’s adaptation of The Railway Children was first produced by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum, York, where it enjoyed two sell-out and critically acclaimed seasons in 2008 and 2009.  The production then opened at Waterloo Station in the former Eurostar terminal in July 2010, where it again played two critically acclaimed sell-out seasons and won the 2011 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment, before opening in Toronto in 2011 in a temporary theatre built at the base of CN Tower in Roundhouse Park.

The Railway Children tells the story of Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, three children whose lives change dramatically when their father is mysteriously taken away. They move from London to a cottage in rural Yorkshire with their mother, where they befriend the local railway porter, Perks, and embark on a magical journey of discovery, friendship and adventure.  But the mystery remains – where is Father, and is he ever coming back?

2016 marks the 110th anniversary of the publication of Edith Nesbit’s much loved classic children’s book The Railway Children, which has subsequently been adapted for the stage and screen, most famously in the 1970 film version directed by Lionel Jeffries and starring Jenny Agutter, Bernard Cribbins, Dinah Sheridan and Sally Thomsett.

The production is presented in London by Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Oliver Royds for BOS Productions and Sue Scott Davison, in association with York Theatre Royal and the National Railway Museum.

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Photo: Johan Persson