The Fastest Train to Anywhere by Alexander Wright demonstrates perfectly why great fantasy writing has captured the childhood imagination of the nation, and why those novels are few and far between. A man boards a train at Kings Cross and is whisked away into a fantasy world. The bare set and simple style of this one-man performance seem set up to allow the audience’s imaginations to do the rest, but in between overt references to Peter Pan, Harry Potter and Narnia, Wright leaves too many gaps in the narrative for an adult audience. It’s also a pity that the last fifteen minutes read like a young fantasy writer name-dropping his heroes because the more original descriptions, though still derivative, have lyrical quality.
Luke James tries valiantly to provide a performance to centre the audience’s attention, but whether through nerves or poor direction he fails to engage much of one in the first 10 minutes of the 40 minute show. He spends much of the time staring stage left, despite ostensibly delivering the story of his journey to the audience. Once he starts looking straight out it becomes easier to follow the hasty dialogue, though at times his delivery slips into monotony. However, his expressions of wonder and joy are honest and heart-warming enough to get past the vagaries of the writing and infuse his character with some personality. If James can make more of the highs and lows of the story it will be easier to invest in the sublime landscapes only he can see, and it is obvious he has the ability to introduce variety.
The impersonations of the other characters are clear, as for the most part they follow stereotype rather than developed characterisation. It is in these moments of imitation that the story-telling format is most tested and toyed with, moving from description to demonstration and investing the play with some louder, livelier points. The old woman Dorothy, who is perhaps not as subtle a reference as intended, presents a point of affectionate interest before she disappears from the story entirely.
Still, this is our harried Londoner’s story, and as mimed phones are suddenly replaced with the genuine article, the play shifts to hint at the outcome, but this is our only hint. In the end, the show fails to achieve a point. Rather than through a fantastical land, James leads us full circle back to his nervous, weak-willed character’s beginning, and while the brief journey was enjoyable, he has ended up nowhere, and the audience has ended up there with him.