by Charles Dickens adapted by Anthony Cord.
Duke Theatre basement of Duke of Hamilton Pub 23-25 New End NW3 1JD To 8 April 2012.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat & Sun 4pm.
Runs 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 794 0258.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 April.
Ghostly atmosphere but the story needs more energy.
New End Theatre has closed its doors for theatrical purposes, but Hampstead has a new venue next door. The Duke Theatre, taking its name from the pub next to the old New End, is a tiny basement room, providing a suitable atmosphere for Anthony Cord’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ghost story.
The railway Signalman is approached by the storyteller (Dickens had been involved in a train crash a year before this 1866 story appeared). He seems abstracted and tells of mysterious ringings on his telegraph bell and two sightings of a ghostly figure by the railway’s red light, each presaging death on the line – a crash or a woman passenger suddenly dying in the nearby tunnel.
As the narrator returns the Signalman hears the bell and sees the figure again. Story and play end with a third variant of disaster. In his adaptation, which he also directs, Cord shows the Signalman distracted and anxious, contrasting his visitor, here a dapper if superficial young dandy.
Star of the show is the venue, its stone confines and wooden-pews creating a chilly, spooky atmosphere. Beams of coloured light contrast the dark surrounds, as the Signalman’s invitation to his visitor to enter the signal-box, and the tea he pours him, contrast the surrounding unease.
There’s also a fine sound-score, with the visitor’s words of greeting first heard floating distantly in the air, the words also of the ghostly figure, and the ghostly telegraph only we and the Signalman hear and which so alarms him.
But, fine as Cord’s ambition is, the production needs an external director. Though there’s plenty of anxiety and distraction in the performance of the ghost-ridden railman, the performance can lose energy and pace while anxiety shows. And his visitor is awkward in using his stick, fussing overmuch with a flimsy cravat that he then leaves behind.
Yet the late ghostly appearance of the figure with his warning gesture moving an arm over his eyes, repeated finally by the driver of another engine, provides a creepy conclusion. Sharpened-up, and possibly given a brief companion piece, it could make an effective show.
Cast: Anthony Cord. Joshy Connor.
Director: Anthony Cord.
full cast details and credits not available.