Coal in the Garden is about three friends who, due to the end of the war, are to be separated when one returns home. Based on their adventures in the garden of the countryside home, this performance created for TakeOver Festival tells a story interwoven with the history of the trains, using objects from the National Railway museum Warehouse as inspiration.
In the 'Garden', also used as the Story Station, of the festival, the audience of both adults and children sit on the floor in front of the simply designed garden set, with a trellis and bench. The three girls are all in 1940's costume, cementing the setting further when we realise one girl, Jane, has been living here after being evacuated from the city during World War II. But to the dismay of her friends Sandra and Mary Alice, we soon discover that Jane is to return home, now that the war has ended.
This news brings a whole host of difficult emotions for the girls to navigate, and we are soon taken on a journey of sabotage missions involving grapes, magic keys to stop the trains and a quest to find the 'Green Dragon' in an effort to develop a plan that will keep Jane from leaving.
The imaginative power of the girls story telling transformed the garden space into whatever setting they could dream up, entertaining both children through their adventures, and adults who were laughing; either from remembering their own childhoods or recognising this in their children.
While the story-telling power of the performance was brilliant, the show suffered slightly from technical difficulty as, unfortunately the microphone of the youngest performer, who played Mary Alice, wasn't working properly, which made it difficult to hear, but she did well to not let it affect her and carried on to perform her role brilliantly.
All three of the girls showed us the complex emotions of growing up and the difficulties of having to say goodbye. The story tells how such a personal moment was interwoven with the history of the railways, in bringing these friends together and pulling them apart again. While it seems sad, there is no need to worry! The show comes to a beautiful ending when Mary Alice makes a gesture of friendship that means Jane will always remember her.
See Coal in the Garden at TakeOver Festival in the National Railway Museum, York, at 3pm Thurs 29th and Sat 31st Oct and Sun 1st Nov. Visit yorktheatreroyal.co.uk for more information.