The Great Train Race (Galashiels)

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

ENDS ENDS

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