COMMUNITY CAST TELL THE STORY OF THE RAILWAY KING
Back in April, York Theatre Royal announced that George Costigan, recognised for his roles in Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Calendar Girls, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter,and BBC’s Happy Valley, would be playing George Hudson, dubbed The Railway King, in the York Theatre Royal, National Railway Museum and Pilot Theatre production of In Fog and Falling Snow, a major theatrical event that opens in York on 26 June. Over 200 people have been cast to star alongside the professional, all of whom are volunteering.
It’s a huge undertaking with 80 Front of House volunteers, 50 costume making volunteers, 50 choir members, 30 technical volunteers and 30 photographers. Despite hours of rehearsals life continues as normal outside the rehearsal room. Here, we announce some of the cast members and reveal what they’re doing when not learning lines or going for costume fittings:
The show follows in the footsteps of the huge success of the 2012 York Mystery Plays and 2013’s Blood + Chocolate. Telling a pivotal story in the city’s history, audiences will be taken on a journey through the museum’s collections after hours before being seated in the purpose built Signal Box Theatre for the second half. It is directed by York Theatre Royal’s Artistic Director Damian Cruden, Associate Director Juliet Forster and Pilot Theatre’s Katie Posner.
The opening scene sees George Hudson and George Stephenson reminiscing about their successes and ideas. Stephenson is played by Ian Giles, who audiences will recognise from his roles in previous community productions, Two Planks and a Passion, York Mystery Plays 2012, and Blood + Chocolate. When he isn’t acting Ian is Head of Film Studies at Queen Margaret’s School. He said of the experience of being in a community production in York;
It’s the ultimate in team work, you’re working with 200 like-minded individuals with another 300 or so backstage and the camaraderie between everyone is fantastic. The professional infrastructure that comes with the projects is a gift – from the stage design to the professional actors who are cast alongside community members, and I’ve no doubt In Fog and Falling Snow will be just as epic.
Kane Hutchinson is playing Jimmy Gadd, who becomes embroiled in the almost fantastical scheme of getting rich by buying railway shares. Kane is studying for an Extended Diploma at York College as well as working part time and hopes to progress to drama school or university. Kane says of the experience;
Considering some of the scenes can feature up to one hundred different and wholly unique characters, the show is quite the spectacle. Working with such a wonderful cast, almost entirely composed of members of the community, is a personal highlight for me.
Playing his brother Edward Gadd is Jeremy Brown. Edward is a working class man who comes into some money, and then gambles it away on railway shares. Although acting in this production he’s looking to study Film and TV Design at university.
Their aspirations to move into the creative arts in the future are shared by co-stars Olivia Ledden, a drama student at York College and Charlotte Wood, who studies Theatre Studies, English Literature, Politics and Dance at All Saints Sixth Form. The girls are sharing the role of George Jenkins, the daughter of a train driver who disguises herself as a boy to work on the railways. For Olivia, this is the first time she has taken part in a community production, having recently moved to York. Charlotte took part in Blood + Chocolate and says of her experience in this year’s production:
It’s not every day you have to play a boy and a girl and it can be emotionally challenging at times, but I am loving rehearsals.
Stephanie Wood is playing the girls’ mother, Martha Jenkins. She is a trained actor, attending Birmingham School of Acting but hadn’t worked as an actor for a long time after taking a break to have children and working as a school administrator. After many nights picking up her children from the York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre, Stephanie heard about the opportunity to get involved in the 2013 production Blood + Chocolate. The show sold out before opening and the experience meant Stephanie jumped at the chance to take part in this year’s production. Her on stage husband Albert Jenkins, is played by Paul Osbourne. Paul is also a trained actor who divides his time between acting and working for an environmental charity.
Playing George Hudson’s wife, Elizabeth, alongside George Costigan, is Rosy Rowley. A mum of four daughters, who are all also taking part in the production, Rosy is a children’s entertainer, and a part-time taxi driver. Her out-going personality also makes her the ideal volunteer for Childline, for whom she goes into schools to help children learn about staying safe and being happy.
Playing Hudson’s arch nemesis, George Leeman, is Rory Mulvihill. He has taken part in over 80 productions including previous York Theatre Royal community productions. A solicitor for over 30 years, Rory is now studying an MA (Theatre) at the University of York.
The production opens on Friday 26 June and runs until Saturday 11 July in the Signal Box Theatre at the National Railway Museum. Tickets for the production are on sale now from the York Theatre Royal Box Office, located on St Leonards Place in the De Grey Rooms, by calling 01904 623568 or online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk