Theatre review: The Great Train Race, Galashiels Interchange

FOR anyone who loves trains, there’s no greater thrill than to be able to write the words “Galashiels station” again, 50 years on; and no better place than the new Galashiels Interchange to watch this timely revival by the Hawick-based Firebrand Company of Robert Dawson Scott’s 2013 Play, Pie And Pint hit, a love-song to the great British railway network of the late 19th century, and to the men who made it run.

Galashiels Interchange. Picture: Stuart Cobley
Galashiels Interchange. Picture: Stuart Cobley

The Great Train Race

Galashiels Station Interchange

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Rating: ****

The show tells the story of the 1895 rivalry between the North British railway company, based in Edinburgh, and the racier and more glamorous Caledonian, based in Glasgow, which culminated in a fierce competition to achieve the shortest journey time from London to Aberdeen.

The story is presented in the style of a highly informative pantomime, with friendly Cammie of the Caledonian trying to whip up popular feeling against the more establishment-minded North British, represented by Waverley station clerk Norrie; there are boos, cheers, and – in Galashiels – roars of approval for references to the railway history of the Borders.

Occasionally the writing soars to heights that still the laughter, including a fabulous description of the sheer drama and heroism of a life on the footplate of a great locomotive. As Simon Donaldson and Ali Watt deliver perfectly-matched performances as Cammie and Norrie, Richard Baron’s production emerges as a celebration and pleasure – perhaps to be revived again, around the Borders, before too long.

Run ended