The Train | Review of the new digital short from the mind of Lucy Pearman © Baby Cow
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The Train

Review of the new digital short from the mind of Lucy Pearman

In her live work, Lucy Pearman has a reputation for slightly bonkers comedy – which she neatly parlayed into the real-ish world via her trippy BBC Three pilot Please Like. Which frankly is overdue a series commission.

While we wait for BBC executives to come to their senses, she has made this series of digital shorts, The Train, which eschews her absurdism for a gently amusing character study based on the three members of staff on a cross-country rail route.

Sure, her character Rona, the food and drink steward, is wearing bunny ears – which adds a bit of visual oddness to the episode – but it is Easter, and she’s the sort of colleague who’s always trying to bring a little cheer to the workplace. 

Not that it’s always appreciated. Conductor Jason – as played with weary but unflappable deadpan by Ghosts’ Kiell Smith-Bynoe – certainly has little time for any of Rona’s nonsense, which may or may not be flirting. He’s too busy being roundly ignored by all the passengers.

Meanwhile, Tim Key is excellent as always as taciturn and socially awkward driver Russell, his short-tempered reluctance to communicate – or indeed to wear shoes – being ascribed to his mother being ill. Though we barely see enough of him in the first eight-minute episode.

Alan Partridge’s Felicity Montague is the slightly obsessive regular customer Tina, put out by her usual seat being taken – and look out for Alex Lowe looking nothing like his Barry of Watford alter-ego as a commuter on the wrong train.

The Train is sort of an anti-Snowpiercer, where nothing much happens at all. The minimal plot of the first instalment – with others coming on the YouTube channel of programme-makers Baby Cow  tomorrow and Thursday – revolves around a political celebrity who’s been spotted in one of the carriages. Each of the key characters' responses says much about who they are.

It’s an efficient way to introduce the viewer to this core cast, who instantly feel like rounded, real people, even given the brevity of this first encounter. Though The Train is not gaggy enough to be a riot of laughs, that is not its aim. Spending a few minutes in the company of this understatedly quirky train crew is an engaging and enjoyable diversion, even though the pace might start to feel too slow over a longer stint.

Here’s the first episode: 

Review date: 27 Sep 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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