THE GHOST TRAIN: Arnold Ridley.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 2nd August.
Performance times: 7.30pm weekdays, 5pm and 8pm Saturday (Matinee 2.00pm Weds).
Review: Alan Geary: 28th July 2014.
Creaky of course, but a lot of fun.
Nottingham’s annual Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season get off to a cracking start with The Ghost Train, written in 1925 by Arnold Ridley – decades later he was to play Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army – and directed by Nicholas Briggs for Tabs Productions.
It’s just as creaky as O Mister Porter, which copied the plot. A clutch of stock twenties types, unwillingly stranded all night on a remote railway station, are informed by the proletarian Station Master that it’s haunted; almost from the start there are inexplicable and scary goings-on. Of course it’s played for laughs, but it’s a thriller all the same.
Some wonderfully plank-like audience information lines at the start fill us in on the back stories: “We only got married today”, young Peggy (Sarah Wynne Kordas) tells hubby (Alan Magor) just in case it’s slipped his mind.
The women are particularly strong in this one. Susan Earnshaw is the nutty Miss Bourne, who for a teetotaller can knock back her brandy. Newcomer Jacqueline Gilbride is Elsie, who isn’t getting on with hubby Richard (Jeremy Lloyd Thomas). Angie Smith is super as Julia Price, the histrionic vamp with the bright red hair; Sarah Wynne Kordas gives newly-wed Peggy a high and bright ringing voice and naïve good cheer dead right for the part.
Andrew Ryan demonstrates his versatility with a nicely OTT performance. His Teddy Deacon is the silly ass who dropped his fellow passengers in the mess in the first place; he pulled the communication cord by way of a jape. But there’s more to him than the nincompoop in loud tweeds and plus-fours he appears to be. Station Master Saul Hodgkin is played by Adrian Lloyd-James. It being the West Country, Hodgkin speaks like a pirate. He never simply says “This station”; it’s always “This ‘ere station”.
Geoff Gilder’s waiting room set is authentic looking, and the sound effects – this was the period when trains sounded like trains – are a lot of fun. Late twenties costumes are entertainingly authentic.
Next week’s thriller, using the same set, incorporates the idea of this one into a wider plot.
Saul Hodgkin: Adrian Lloyd-James.
Richard Winthrop: Jeremy Lloyd Thomas.
Elsie Winthrop: Jacqueline Gilbride.
Charles Murdock: Alan Magor.
Peggy Murdock: Sarah Wynne Kordas.
Miss Bourne: Susan Earnshaw.
Teddy Deacon: Andrew Ryan.
Julia Price: Angie Smith.
Herbert Price: John Banks.
John Sterling: Michael Sherwin.
Jackson: Edward Parris.
Director: Nicholas Briggs.
Designer: Geoff Gilder.
Design Assistant: Chris Radford.
Lighting Designer: Michael Donoghue.
Sound Designer: David Gilbrook.