Review: World premiere of Down The Line is a steaming success

Steve Dolton (Shunter) and Jake Hirst (Runway) in Down The Line at Barrow Hill Roundhouse
Steve Dolton (Shunter) and Jake Hirst (Runway) in Down The Line at Barrow Hill Roundhouse

Steam trains, a brass band, professional actors working with novice performers and a standing ovation - theatre doesn’t get better than this.

Down The Line is a world premiere to celebrate Barrow Hill Roundhouse’s relaunch and the first opportunity to see the iconic Flying Scotman in a theatrical production.

The play is amazingly powerful, deeply moving and incredibly atmospheric, bringing north Derbyshire’s community heritage and industrial history to life in the best way possible.

A locomotive takes teenagers off to fight in the Great War and never returns, an open-top Morgan car roars in carrying Lady Chatterley who describes Barrow Hill and Hollingwood as a tangle of rail lines and headstocks.

Clouds of steam from loco chimneys and the shriek of whistles signalling their departure pierce the night sky.

Inside the engine shed, the turntable doubles as a revolving stage on which a couple’s marriage disintegrates during the miners’ strike and a carriage door is drawn back to unveil a claustrophobic council office.

Dramatic lighting depicts engine wheels turning - a symbol of life going on when key figures have passed on.

The acoustics and atmosphere of the Roundhouse are perfect for the sound of brass with ireland Colliery Chesterfield Band entertaining and leading the audience on this magical journey.

Six professional actors, led by Steve Dolton as narrator cum loco driver Shunter, are supported by a large crew of performers from north Derbyshire in portraying the story of the railway and the Roundhouse’s impact on the life of the community.

The play’s director Carole Copeland has given a polished interpretation of Kevin Fegan’s beautifully crafted script which spotlights major events such as the creation of Barrow Hill village and the Markham pit disaster.

The Flying Scotman steams in for the finale with the Roundhouse’s general manager Mervyn Allcock at its helm - a fitting place for the man whose tireless campaign saved this landmark building from the bulldozers and preserved it for generations to come.

Down The Line is a play which will tug your heart-strings, make you smile and is definitely worth a return journey. Grab your boarding pass and make sure you dress warmly if you’re heading there tonight or tomorrow when the adventure begins at 7.30pm.

Celebrations of the £1.2m Heritage Lottery-funded restoration project, which includes a new cafe and exhibition space, include a steam gala featuring Flying Scotsman and Tornado today, tomorrow and Sunday.