Hope? Rather! Tons of it.
Over the Christmas break I went to see the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, and the final performance of The Railway Children at King's Cross Theatre. Rogue One sits between the third and fourth films in the Star Wars series and provides the background to A New Hope, now the fourth film but originally the first one, which was released in 1977 and made such an enormous impact on so many people. It was this film which introduced Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, Han Solo and, arguably, the greatest baddie in cinematic history, Darth Vader.
Listening to one of the radio film review programmes I was startled to hear that Star Wars has generated income through ticket sales and merchandise greater than that of the James Bond and Harry Potter films combined. Indeed, in ticket sales alone, Star Wars, as of last month, has raised $7,481,036,807.
The Railway Children has had nothing like the worldwide impact of Star Wars but the adaptation of Edith Nesbit's novel of 1906 is a wonderful piece of theatre. It was first staged in 2008 at the National Railway Museum in York, moved to Waterloo Station and then to the temporary theatre created at King's Cross Station. I have seen it three times and on each occasion I was excited by the arrival in the theatre of the Stirling Single steam locomotive. It is an amusing, heart-warming story which follows the challenges faced by the Waterbury children - Roberta, Peter and Phyllis - and their mother following Mr Waterbury's wrongful arrest for spying.
This theme of false imprisonment is quite important in the play. The other theme, which it shares with Rogue One, is the importance of hope. Rogue One concludes with a computer-generated image of a young Carrie Fisher as Princes Leia stating that there remains hope the Empire can be defeated and this obviously paves the way for A New Hope. Quite early in The Railway Children, before Mr Waterbury's arrest, we witness Peter's birthday party. He is given a toy steam engine by his parents but manages to break it within seconds of opening the box. As his father looks at it, the following exchange takes place:
Peter: Is there any hope?
Father: Hope? Rather! Tons of it. But we'll want something besides hope. A bit of brazing say, or some solder, and a new valve.
I think most people can see the benefits of a hopeful optimistic outlook and it is, I believe, an appropriate idea to take into a new year. Mr Waterbury's words emphasise, however, something more important, namely, the necessity of allying practical action to hope if anything worthwhile is to be achieved.
Friday 13 January 2017