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Review: The Next Train to Depart, Queen's Hall, Hexham

Newcastle Central Station offers the backdrop to a 21st century homage to Brief Encounter at Queen's Hall Arts Centre

****
The Next Train to Depart by John Challis starring Adam Donaldson & Alex Tahne
The Next Train to Depart by John Challis starring Adam Donaldson & Alex Tahne

Depending on my mood and/or destination, train stations can seem like the most depressing place in the world or the ideal place to start an adventure.

Both ends of this spectrum - and a few stops in between - are explored in John Challis’ solo playwrighting debut The Next Train to Depart.

A two-hander, inspired by Brief Encounter and offering shades of recent BBC1 drama The 7.39, the story revolves around a friendship which develops amid the tannoy announcements, half-drunk coffee cups and commuting chaos of Newcastle Central Station.

Dante (Adam Donaldson) is an aspiring poet. He spends all his time people watching and scribbling from a table at Costa coffee.

Kayleigh (Alex Tahnée) is always running for her train as she tries to hold down the latest dead-end job or get the next one. After an unseen first meeting (which Kayleigh can’t remember because it followed some standard hen night shenanigans), the pair get talking, and can’t seem to stop.

Punctuated by Dante’s short and spotlit poetry performances - which demonstrate an ever-increasing influence from his new platform companion - the story is played out over six meetings which see the random acquaintances become important to each other.

While Dante’s influence forces Kayleigh to reassess her home life and ambitions for adventure, she repays by encouraging him to face up to the realities of his long-distance relationship as well as unwittingly helping him construct his poetry into something a little more listen worthy.

The Next Train to Depart is part of the Queen’s Hall’s Bitesize series of short (and touring) plays, for which you get the added bonus of a thoroughly lovely one courser in the venue’s cafe ahead of the performance (or after if you opt for an afternoon ticket).

Only 40 minutes it may have been, but a combination of good writing and performances to match (particularly on the part of Alex Tahnée who did a great job conveying Kayleigh’s equal measures of feistiness and vulnerability) had me wondering whether or not they caught the train as I drove back to Newcastle. I like to think they did.

The Next Train to Depart plays at Live Theatre tomorrow. The performance is sold out, but there are more North East tour dates to be found at trashedorgan.co.uk. Visit queenshall.co.uk for a full Bitesize line up.

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