THE SHADOW OF THE GHOST: Ponka and Ridley, Theatre Royal Nottingham till 9th Aug

Nottingham.

THE SHADOW OF THE GHOST: Chris Ponka and Nicolas Ridley.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 9th August.
Performance times: 7.30pm weekdays, 5pm and 8pm Saturday (Matinee 2.00pm Weds).
Review: Alan Geary: 4th August 2014.

Has its moments but doesn’t quite come off.
The Shadow of the Ghost uses the same waiting-room set as last week’s thriller, most of the same actors and some of the same costumes. The idea is that the Lemon Tree Players, an am dram outfit, are in rehearsal for The Ghost Train.

It’s a plot which sometimes parallels, or appears to parallel, The Ghost Train – things are never what they seem – only it’s concerned with the cast. The theatre is said to be haunted: there’s mention of a ghostly incident that happened at the venue decades ago, things go bump or worse, and there are horrible killings. There are also juicy revelations about the cast: who’s having an affair with whom? Who plagiarised someone else’s work? In short, who has a motive for murder?

Written by Nicholas Ridley – son of Arnold, who wrote Ghost Train – in collaboration with Chris Ponka, it’s a good idea for a play.

The collaborative aspect seems to be over apparent. A Miss Marple parody, with a pipe, called Miss Marpole (Susan Earnshaw), and a strangely disturbing scene, where half man-half rabbit Barry (Alan Magor) has encounters with a noose and a gun, don’t gel with the rest of the play; they seem to have strayed in from different sets of convention. And the parallels with Ghost Train work effectively only if you’ve seen that play recently: this one be can’t truly be enjoyed without reference to the earlier caper.

It’s a pity also that, after some enjoyable twists and turns of plot, it ends a bit flatly with a question in the air.

Performances are good, for instance Michael Strobel’s Ron, the actor playing blustering Station Master, Saul Hodgkin, and Jacqueline Gilbride’s Stella, who plays the unhappily married Elsie Winthrop. John Banks, as the harassed director, is properly realistic. There’s an especially enjoyable, somewhat over-protracted initial scene between Magor’s card-carrying coward and Gilbride’s Stella with the two of them desperately trying to rehearse in the absence of some key actors who are late.

Again directed by Nicholas Briggs, this is a bold idea for a thriller, but it doesn’t quite come off.

Ron: Michael Strobel.
Barrie: Alan Magor.
Stella: Jacqueline Gilbride.
Michael Melly: John Banks.
Margery Smith: Susan Earnshaw.
Cliff: Jeremy Lloyd Thomas.
Sarah: Sarah Wynne Kordas.
Jack Taylor: Andrew Ryan.
Tom: Walter Plinge.

Director: Nicholas Briggs.
Designer: Geoff Gilder.
Design Assistant: Chris Radford.
Lighting Designer: Michael Donoghue.
Sound Designer: David Gilbrook.

2014-08-08 10:26:11

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