I had that mother’s guilt thing again last week. The cause? I went to a train-based activity and I didn’t take my choo choo-crazy toddler.

“So, is Starlight Express a bit like Thomas the Tank Engine, then?”, asked Sam as we got into bed the other night. He was confused over how a musical about trains would work.

“Well, he failed to get the rights to adapt Thomas, so he made this instead…. There are a lot of similarities – rivalries between steam and diesel, races, the usual debates over whether it’s better to be a passenger car or a freight train… But whereas Thomas is about how to be a really useful engine, Starlight Express is about finding inner strength and believing that you can achieve anything.”

Yep. He wished he had never asked.

West End theatre is a bit of a longstanding family trade, and with an uncle who has worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber on many of his productions, we have watched a lot of his musicals over the years. Starlight Express was always a favourite of mine. The music is just so amazingly 80s, and the roller skating aspect was pretty exciting when I was a child.

There’s not much to offer in the way of feminism. All the girls are coaches, all the boys are engines. And Pearl, the lead coach, flits from one love interest to another with only the vaguest of excuses for her actions. “You don’t understand”, “This wasn’t how I wanted it”, etc. As my friend rightly pointed out, there’s not too much separating it from the implausible love plots on Made In Chelsea.

But it’s a nostalgia thing for me. And so, it was great to go back on Friday and see it for a sixth time. Even better to go with a group of school friends who were equally as nostalgic about it. (But why did they change the love song at the end?? NO. I’m still not over this.)

What do seventeen year olds do upon returning from an evening of courting gentlemen in a cocktail bar? (Read: getting pissed in the only establishment that was guaranteed to serve us). Well, if you are me and my friend (who was with me for Friday’s theatre trip), you grab your roller blades and a small audience of younger brothers and bemused friends, head to a large tarmaced area in front of Richmond Park, and act out the whole of Starlight Express as a two-person act. From start to finish. Word for word.

What a riot we were.

I’m not quite sure why my brother has allowed me to live that one down. Nor do I understand why none of the residents made a noise pollution complaint. I can only conclude that it must have been a really good performance.

Thank god camera phones weren’t around in those days.


  1. I LOVE STARLIGHT EXPRESS! I’ve never actually been to see it, but I had the soundtrack and knew (still know) all the words off by heart. Man I wanted to be Pearl so bad. My favourite song was U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D – I had a song and dance routine to that when I was at dance school aged 14. I AM SUCH A LOSER.


      1. I lie, I lie, I lie. Was speaking to my Mum about it the other day, after reading your post, and she said, ” You have seen it you wally!” Turns out I did, when I was about 8, and that’s why I loved it so much. As you can see, baby brain has not completely left the building :/

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