The Great Train Race (Galashiels)


JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE GREAT TRAIN RACE at Galashiels Station Interchange, for the Scotsman 30.11.15.

FOR ANYONE WHO loves trains, there’s no greater thrill than to be able to write the words “Galashiels station” again, 50 years on; and no better place than the new Galashiels Interchange to watch this timely revival by the Hawick-based Firebrand Company of Robert Dawson Scott’s 2013 Play, Pie And Pint hit, a love-song to the great British railway network of the late 19th century, and to the men who made it run.

The show tells the story of the great summer-of-1895 rivalry between the North British railway company, based in Edinburgh, and the racier and more glamorous Caledonian, based in Glasgow, which culminated in a fierce competition to achieve the shortest journey time from London to Aberdeen.

The story is presented in the style of a highly informative pantomime, with friendly Cammie of the Caledonian trying to whip up popular feeling against the more establishment-minded North British, represented by Waverley station clerk Norrie; there are boos and cheers, and – in Galashiels – loud roars of approval for a few special references to the railway history of the Borders.

Just occasionally, though, the writing soars to heights that temporarily still the laughter, including a fabulous description of the sheer drama and heroism of a working life on the footplate of a great locomotive. It’s an apparently light-touch show backed by an impressive depth of history and emotion; and with Simon Donaldson and Ali Watt delivering a pair of perfectly-matched performances as Cammie and Norrie, Richard Baron’s production emerges as an hour of pure celebration and pleasure – perhaps to be revived again, around the Borders, before too long.

Run completed.


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