It might not seem like a typical Christmas offering but the retelling of Nesbit’s classic tale The Railway Children has been timetabled to provide fun for the whole family.

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The Company of Ten’s seasonal offering at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans opens tomorrow night with performances both before and after Christmas.

The story of how Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis are forced to move to the country with their mother when their father is falsely imprisoned for spying is well known, thanks both to Nesbit’s 1906 novel and the iconic 1970 film starring Jenny Agutter.

Less well known is that the plot draws on several contemporary news events including the Dreyfus Affair, a prominent political scandal involving a French army officer wrongly convicted of treason.

The story’s basis on true events and the real-life challenges its characters face, led to Nesbit being described as ‘the first modern writer for children’. It left director Yvonne Harding questioning not how to make the story relevant but how to translate it to the stage.

She explained: “The stage versions at the National Railway Museum in York in 2008 and at London’s Waterloo Station in 2010 both used a real steam train, which is a difficult act to follow. But as the playwright Mike Kenny points out, the best prop of all is the audience’s imagination and it’s actually the journey of this family that makes them most interesting.”

Performances take place at 7.30pm tomorrow (Friday), December 23 and 27 and at 2.30pm and 5.30pm on December 21, 22, 28 and 29, on the main stage at the Abbey Theatre. To book tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.

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