Stories Down The Line

The rise and fall of Norfolk’s railways – or rather the people that used them – are at the heart of this charming community theatre piece.

Mixing history, imaginary vignettes, music, and a healthy dash of comic sound effects, the story is told of the emergence of two historic railway lines that ran from Norwich to Aylsham along what is now known as Marriot’s Way.

The 26-mile track is also the location for a series of four performances of the piece at various stops on the route, starting with tonight’s opening show at Anderson’s Meadow – about where once would have stood Norwich City Station.

The cast of 26 actors of all ages function as an ensemble, switching between characters across 15 short acts, each introduced by the authoritative station manager (played engagingly by Matt Williams) and his deputy (musical director and composer Charlie Caine, who also takes on keyboard and conducting duties).

Rob John’s script moves swiftly along, with clever use of props and interjections to make modern gags among the historic content, and dealing as confidently with comic element as with the distressing wartime stories and tales of railway accidents.

The tale of a young woman excited by the prospect of a job at Jarrold, made possible by the new trainline, is particularly well acted, and there is much poignancy in the scenes of wartime goodbyes and retelling of the crash of US bomber Lady Jane near the station.

The style – and many of the cast – will be familiar to those who have seen The Common Lot’s Come Yew In! or Anglia Square: A Love Story, both open air performances linked to local history and splicing song and dialogue. The latter suffered a little from its promenade style and lengthy runtime, but at 85 minutes this piece is a perfect little nugget.

Stories Down The Line will be performed at Hellesdon Station, Marlpitt on September 22 at 3pm; Marriot’s Way, Aylsham, on September 28 at 5pm; and Whitwell and Reepham Station on September 29 at 3pm. For more details visit the Marriot’s Way website.