Q&A: Beth Lilly, Matt Jessup & Sophie Ablett (The Railway Children)

the railway children

Mike Kenny’s re-imagining of Edith Nesbit’s much-loved tale is wowing audiences of all ages at the Kings Cross Theatre. With a real life train that steams into the theatre, prepare to be delighted at this spectacular production. It tells the story of Phyllis, Peter and Bobbie who embark on an adventure of lifetime becoming the The Railway Children.

We caught up with the three actors who spoke to us about their time on the show.

1. Tell me about the characters you play in The Railway Children. 

Beth Lilly – I play Phyllis, the youngest of the three children. She is a lot of fun to play- she’s clumsy, wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t care what others think of her!

Matt Jessup – I play Peter Waterbury. The brother, only son and middle child. He has a great love for his family and great sense of mischief.

Sophie Ablett – I play Bobbie, the oldest railway child. She’s brave, sensitive and most importantly gets to say the most famous line in the show!

2. Have any of you had a go at driving the train? 

BL – No, but I’d love to! I have been on it though and pretended to drive it- that counts right?!

MJ – Yes, once, in an understudy run for Julie (understudy Bobby). It was as fun as it looks, and much faster.

SA – Ah not yet, but there’s still time!

3. Last production you saw at the theatre? 

BL – The last production I saw was Yerma at The Young Vic and it was completely mind blowing. It actually is one of my favourite pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen! Incredible acting and just a fantastic and gripping production.

MJ – 946: The Story of Adolphus Tipps at The Globe. It was fantastic.

SA – Ivanov at the National — I’ve seen all three of the young Chekhov series in the last few weeks, which has been a treat. But the real highlight of recent theatre trips was for sure ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’ — so WONDERFUL, I loved it.

4. What has been your career highlight so far? 

BL – It has to be this job. It’s such a beautiful show to be a part of. I was also lucky enough to do the show last summer up in York at the National Rail Museum and it was my first big role out of drama school, so that was pretty exciting.

MJ – This job, or Timon of Athens at the National. Both have provided so many lessons, and endless laughter.

SA – I still feel like quite a newbie! I only graduated last year, so this whole year has felt like one highlight after another — shooting for ‘Taboo’ with Tom Hardy, playing Bobbie, working in and learning from a wonderful company of actors — it’s all been wicked.

5. What are your 3 dressing room must haves? 

BL – 1. Straws – I know that sounds super weird- but I have an amazing voice warm up which involves straws and I couldn’t be without them! 2. Berrocca- I have one in the interval to help keep me energised for the second half.  3. Marmite flatbreads – Or any kind of snack really but these are my current favourite – SO GOOD.

MJ – Water, sweets and the script!

SA – Lacrosse massage ball for working out all the body aches pre-show, an abundance of snacks to suit every mood, and of course photos and decorations so it’s a home from home.

6. What do you normally do on your day off? 

BL – I usually try to sleep a lot but also see friends, catch up with boring things like washing and maybe try and go to the theatre in the evening.

MJ – I always plan to rest, but usually get bored by midday, so will catch a matinee or a film before seeing friends.

SA – Boringly enough REST is a big part of my day off at the moment. And then catching up with friends and probably going out to the theatre!

7. If you weren’t acting, what profession would you be doing? 

BL – I honestly have no clue. I would love to have another string to my bow but I haven’t yet found it! Perhaps working with children. I work as a nanny when I am not acting.

MJ – Someone said I’d make a good therapist… But the dream would be to run a theatre one day, and I’m fascinated by directing and design.

SA – Boringly enough REST is a big part of my day off at the moment. And then catching up with friends and probably going out to the theatre!

8. Who’s your hero? 

BL – My mum and dad. They are so supportive and just wonderful people!

MJ – Erin Doherty.

SA – Many people, but my hard-working, all-loving, all-patient grandma is definitely on that list.

9. Who would you most like to work with?  

BL – I’ve just watched Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and think she is a legend, so I’d love to work with her.

MJ – Actors? Michael Caine. The list of directors is endless.

SA – SO many people and SO many companies — (in no particular order!) Peter Brook, Robert Icke, Ned Bennett, Vicky Featherstone, Howard Davies, Jeremy Herrin, Polly Findlay, Jamie Lloyd, Krzysztof Warlikowski, Lyndsey Turner, Complicité, the RSC and more — I could go on and on and on!

10. Best place for a post-show night cap? 

BL – The Lighterman- by the canal opposite the theatre, it’s lovely.

MJ – The Lighterman in King’s Cross

SA – The Lighterman across the canal from the theatre, you can sit right down by the water and enjoy a well-priced cider.

11. Theatre you’d most like to be locked in overnight? 

BL – Kings Cross theatre because I keep a onesie in the dressing room and also the train is super comfy!

MJ – The Young Vic. I’d happily live there.

SA – This is sort of cheating but maybe the National Theatre, as there are multiple theatres to explore and stages to try out!

12. What’s the best part about performing in The Railway Children? 

BL – Being part of such a beautiful production which speaks to and attracts such a wide variety of people. And getting to act everyday which is all I’ve ever wanted to be doing!

MJ – Bringing to life a story that thousands of people have a lot of love for (and hopefully love even more when we’re finished…)

SA – Having a whole crowd of people laugh with you and then cry with you is quite remarkable.

The Railway Children is booking up until January 2017 at the Kings Cross Theatre

(Photo courtesy of Johan Persson)

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