The Permanent Way, or La Voie Anglaise

Britain, yeah, beautiful country, shame we can’t run a railway

In Bath this evening, since I’ve just gone to see David Hare’s new play The Permanent Way at the Theatre Royal. sadly couldn’t make it (she’s on duty tonight, covering for an unwell RT), but the good news is that it is still touring the country before going to the Cottesloe Theatre at the NT in the New Year.

The play concerns itself with the development of the British railways in the post-privatisation years, punctuated by the crashes at Southall, Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar, and is told as a series of interwoven first-hand accounts of those involved with the railways: politicians, engineers, financiers, passengers, navvies, survivors. The play had some media coverage last month, both on the Today programme, and in the national press (see The Guardian), and manages to lay out the events without becoming overly preachy. Excellent performances, vivid script (unsurprising, given its source) and extremely compelling, despite being on a relatively familiar subject. I recommend this most strongly.

(As an aside, the train I took to get to Bath from Southampton ended up being 45 minutes late on a journey that usually takes less than an hour and a half. The irony was not lost on me.)

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