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The Boy in the Red Jersey!

Posted: Tuesday 30 October, 2018

On Monday 29th October, the cast and crew of Next Stage Theatre Company and Next Stage Youth’s production of The Railway Children were delighted to welcome actor, Christopher Witty and his wife Megan Witty - the talented woman behind The Minerva Owls all across Bath this summer, to The Mission Theatre. Chris played the original ‘Jim’ in the 1970’s film version of The Railway Children by Lionel Jeffries - a small boy in a red jersey injured in the train tunnel who is later rescued and nursed by the Railway Children and their mother.

Christopher approached Artistic Director, Ann Ellison after hearing about the company’s ambitious production from his wife, Megan. After a short visit last week, Ann was mesmerised by Chris’ fascinating stories regarding his acting life, previous cast members and on-set stories whilst filming this iconic film. His vivid recollections and tales lit up the room and so Ann invited Chris along to the company’s dress rehearsal on Monday to meet all cast and crew.

Cast and crew of The Railway Children with Christopher Witty

As a child, Chris starred in over 30 films during his acting career, playing roles such as Prince Jamil in the British Comedy Thriller Masquerade. However, Chris’ last film role was as Jim in The Railway Children so this role in particular has more sentimental value to him. Cast members were thrilled to meet and converse with the real-life ‘Jim’ on Monday evening, especially Next Stage’s very own Jim, played by Finlay Gilmour. Inviting questions from the cast and crew gave all a unique insight into Chris’ life and his role in a much-loved story. Our Next Stage Youth members were particularly engrossed by Chris’ recollections and experiences as a child actor on stage, film and TV in the 1960’s. His inspirational stories gripped all from start to finish and left everyone wanting to know more and more about this remarkable man.

Next Stage's Railway Children - Keira Barry as Phyllis, Freddie Stockton as Peter, Lily Stiles as Roberta - with Artistic Director, Ann Ellison, Finlay Gilmour as Jim and Christopher Witty

The two 'Jim's' - Finlay Gilmour and Christopher Witty

This morning we had the following quote from Chris regarding his visit to The Mission Theatre on Monday: “It was so kind of Ann Ellison, Artistic Director at The Mission Theatre, to ask me to come and meet the cast and crew of The Railway Children this week. Having played the part of ‘Jim’ in the original film back in 1970, I have great memories of those days so it as a pleasure recalling some of them to the cast”.

Artistic Director, Ann Ellison BEM says: “We were all amazed last week when Christopher Witty walked into The Mission Theatre’s office and introduced himself as the ‘original Jim’ from Lionel Jeffries’ 1970’s film of The Railway Children. What a lovely man! He brought with him a fascinating book that he had helped to compile on the making of the film which he presented to me and which the cast and crew have poured over. We listened to his vivid recollections of filming with Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett, Gary Warren and Bernard Cribbins. I was so captivated by his recounting that I asked him to come and speak to the cast of Next Stage’s current production of The Railway Children. Chris was happy to find the time and on Monday 29th October he regaled cast and crew with stories and Q&A’s before their dress rehearsal. Our youngest and newest cast member, Finlay Gilmour playing ‘Jim’, was especially thrilled to meet and chat with Chris and get his autograph. Chris and his lovely wife Megan are both coming to see Next Stage’s production of The Railway Children on Thursday 1st November. So if any readers want to come along, enjoy the show and have the chance to see Chris, do grab any last tickets today! Many thanks once again to a lovely actor and raconteur.”

Finlay Gilmour getting Christopher's autograph

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