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The Permanent Way, Stage2, The Crescent Theatre

THE privatisation of British railways - it doesn’t sound the most riveting subject for a play.

THE privatisation of British railways - it doesn’t sound the most riveting subject for a play.

Considering that Stage2 is a youth group, it’s an even more surprising choice. Or at least it would be if you weren’t familiar with the group’s back catalogue.

This is a company which doesn’t shirk from classic literature or meaty, political issues. And let’s be straight from the start - their latest effort is fantastic.

We start on a platform packed with commuters - waiting for a train which is already running late. But the familiar sight of rush-hour chaos is just the jumping off point.

Soon we’re spinning backwards in time, reliving the fateful decision to privatise the rail network. And then we’re racing forwards again - seeing the tragic consequences of the move. It’s not easy to watch.

The story uses first-hand accounts of real people - from a disillusioned policewoman, to Railtrack’s embattled chief executive through to those who have lost loved ones in the disasters.

The lethal mix of corporate greed and blundering MPs feels very close to home at the moment. This isn’t some play about public transport, it asks some serious questions of the establishment which couldn’t be more relevant.

Complaints? Only one that springs to mind. At three hours, the show does feel overlong and after such an effective first act, the second half did feel somewhat surplus to requirements.

Nonetheless this is a thought-provoking and moving piece of theatre.

 

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