Civic Theatre, Darlington – 30 June 2015
Arnold Ridley’s Ghost Train arrives in Darlington this week in a tense thriller.
Telling the tale of a very mixed group of passengers reluctantly spending the night in the bleak Fal Vale station in Cornwall because there is no train to the next stop, Truro, for nine hours. Sam Hodgkin (Jeffrey Holland) is hugely-believable as the grumpy station master who regales them with spooky tales, with a warning that the place is haunted, and anyone who sees the ghost train will die.
Ben Roddy as Richard Winthrop and Corrinne Wicks as his wife Elsie excel as they argue their way towards a separation while Chris Sheridan and Sophie Powles are perfectly cast as newly weds Charles and Peggy Murdock. Judy Buxton is the eccentric Miss Bourne, who has a parrot in a cage, and for someone supposed to be teetotal can knock back her spirits, and spends the majority of the play comatose on the table. However, Tom Butcher stealing most of the laughs as upper class twit Teddie Deakin, who seemingly pulled the communication cord as a joke but we learn that there’s more to him than the nitwit in waistcoat, loud tweeds and plus-fours jumping about like a jack in a box.
Liz Garland as Julia Price, along with David Janson (her brother Herbert Price) and John Hester as Dr Sterling introduce a sinister note to the proceedings, while William Towler as a small but important part as police officer Jackson.
The waiting room set is simple yet effective, and there is excellent use of light to suggest the passing of trains outside, and of sound to convey the raging storm. And the costumes, Wicks and Powles in particular, are glorious and beautiful.
To be honest, time has not been kind to some parts of The Ghost Train script and it’s interesting to consider how much of the phraseology which would have been commonplace 90 years ago, now sounds simply comical, creating far more laughter than would have originally been intended. But the story has suspense and tension with more than one jump-out-of-your-seat moment, and a twist in the tale. Its then such a shame that such a well written play seems to end so suddenly, as if Ridley ran out of time and idea’s. An extra ten minutes and the ending could have been so much better.
In Darlington until Saturday 4th July