THE GHOST TRAIN
by Arnold Ridley.
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre 408-410 Brockley Road SE4 2DH To 5 January 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat 30 Dec 3.30pm. no performance 23 – 27 Dec, 31 Dec -1 Jan.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
Review: William Russell 15 December.
Train worth waiting for.
A West End hit in 1923 Arnold Ridley’s comedy-thriller has been a staple of British repertory theatre ever since. It creaks, admittedly, but it still works. We are in the waiting room of a small railway station on a branch line in the wilds of Cornwall outside Truro. A train has stopped because someone, who lost their hat out of the window, pulled the communication cord, and as a result the handful of passengers on it are stranded in the station having missed their onward connection.
The station-master tells them a tale about a train which crashed down the line years ago, killing all on board and whose ghostly presence still haunts the line. Any who see it dies. Then he goes home leaving the irate passengers behind to spend the night in the waiting room there being no accommodation locally.
They are a newly wed couple, a bickering couple whose marriage is in trouble, an old lady with a parrot in a cage and the irritating young man whose lost hat caused the trouble. When they open the door to get out to the platform the station-master falls in – dead.
Later three more people arrive, all, for some reason, in evening dress. It is that sort of play. David Shields has designed a splendid crumbling waiting room set and director Kate Bannister has updated the action to the 1940s which helps make the denouement a little more plausible.
It is pretty daft when you start to think about it, but things are kept moving briskly enough to not allow much time for that. Joanna Eliot has a lovely Penelope Keith-type time as the woman whose marriage is in trouble, Tina Gray does a delicious batty turn as the old biddy with the bird, and Chris Bearne is suitably sinister as the very peculiar station-master.
But the entire cast rise to the occasion, keep straight faces when things get really preposterous, and at least it is not one of those plays in which everyone turns out to be dead, souls on a journey to eternity.
Saul Hodgkin: Chris Bearne.
Richard Winthrop: Jonathan Clarkson.
Elsie Winthrop: Joanna Eliot.
Charles Murdock: David Palmstrom.
Peggy Murdock: Louise McMenemy
Miss Bourne: Tina Gray.
Teddie Deakin: Barra Collins.
Julia Price: Evelyn Adams.
Herbert Price: Adrian Salmon.
John Stirling: Jamie Laird.
Director: Kate Bannister.
Designer: David Shields.
Lighting: William Ingham.
Sound: Joe Churchman.
Fight director: Austin Spangler.
Assistant director: Anne MacDonald.