Jenny Agutter is back on the tracks

21st April 2000 at 01:00
The actress has returned to familiar territory to star in a new adaptation of the favourite story which catapulted her to fame. Jon Harrington reports.

THE children's classic The Railway Children will be chugging back on to TV screens at Easter with its tried-and-tested mix of locomotives, costume drama and Jenny Agutter.

However, this time round the actress will play the mother of Roberta, the character she first played 30 years ago.

She hopes Carlton TV's remake will lead to a revival of books by E Nesbit. The novelist, who was working at the start of the 20th century, has lost out recently to more fashionable authors.

She said: "I read Nesbit's books as a child but it is only since I have been a mother that I have seen the full value of her work.

"Because she wrote in another era it is easy to dismiss her work as irrelevant to our world and our children. What can they learn from a woman who could never have heard of television, let alone EastEnders or Pokemon?

"Nesbit expressed a desire to keep the imagination alive into adulthood. Today this is harder than ever to achieve.

"Children and adolescents have such adult attitudes. They pick these up from what they receive, especially television. Soap operas are supposed to show life, but they only present a surface,looking at modern existence as a series of events and crises without exploring anything of what lies underneath.

"The news and advertisements work in the same way, giving facts and attitudes without explanations. If children are not given any insight into the emotional part of life then they arrive at puberty with no real understanding of what is about to happen to them. It is all very well to adopt adult attitudes, but how can they cope with the turbulent beginnings of adult emotions?"

She believes the adventures of the children in the book and Nesbit's other stories such as The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Five Children and It have enduring messages about overcoming problems, making mistakes, but getting somewhere in the end.

She said: "Nesbit's children are practical, active beings, easily bored perhaps, but never cynical. When the children gather presents for Mr Perks they learn that a human emotion, in this case pride, can stand in the way of well-intentioned, positive deeds.

"The Roberta who is reunited with her father at the end of The Railway Children is somebody different from the more completely childish girl we meet at the beginning of the book. I know that motherhood, marriage and other life events have certainly changed me since I first played Roberta."

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