Tag Archives: Corrinne Wicks

On the right track…

THE GHOST TRAIN

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 7th April, 2015

 

Arnold Ridley’s 1923 comedy thriller is on the road again in this pleasing production from Talking Scarlet. Now a period piece, this is an old-fashioned slice of Englishness with shocks and laughs along the way.

A group of passengers is stranded at a remote Cornish station – despite warnings from the stationmaster (Jeffrey Holland in full-on character mode) and hearing the local legend, they settle in for the night. The arrival of strangers and the apparent unfolding of the ghost story crank up the tension.  Mind you, we have all waited for trains that mysteriously never turn up!

Holland is at home in this creaky old piece, and so is Ben Roddy as Richard Winthrop, handling the “Now look here”s of the dialogue as though people talk like that all the time. In the mouths of others, the dialogue doesn’t sound as good: you need to heighten your performance in order to carry orf this kind of thing. Insufferable prat Teddie (Tom Butcher) is therefore not as ghastly as he could be, which dilutes the impact somewhat of the eventual reveal of his true identity. Newlyweds Charles and Peggy (Chris Sheridan and Sophie Powles) could perhaps do with a little more of the caricature in their portrayals in order to maximise the fun.

Judy Buxton enjoys herself as old boot Miss Bourne, and Corrinne Wicks’s Elsie embodies the new independent woman of the time. Jo Castleton stalks around melodramatically as the disturbed Julia Price, contrasting neatly with David Janson as her concerned brother Herbert.

As I said, it’s all rather pleasing even if it does lack a little oomph at the start. Director Patric Kearns gets a few good jumps out of us, and proves that even if you know what’s coming, Ridley’s play can still work a treat.

ghost train


A dreary little Christmas

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY
Festival Theatre, Malvern, Tuesday 29th November, 2011

I was going to call this review “Pricks And Creeps” – in reference to the plants in the title, of course. Sadly, the show doesn’t merit so cheeky a headline.

Purportedly a Christmas classic and billed as “profoundly moving”, this 1948 offering from Wynward Browne is a bit like opening a present and being more delighted by the packaging. Set in a parsonage in post-war Middle England, the play tells the story of family members gathering on Christmas Eve and – and – sitting around reading and knitting and – well, that’s the action for you. The parson (Stuart McGugan) is like a failed auditionee for Bond villain in his long black jacket and long white wig. He sermonises on the Incas and Pagan traditions, among other things, and doubts if his life’s work has had any discernible effect on the community. His grown-up children tread on eggshells around him, fearing his disapprobation or – worse!- another sermon.

There is Jenny (Julia Mallam off of Emmerdale) who is a trapped-at-home carer, keeping her Scottish boyfriend at arms’ length because of her duty to look after her father. Jenny is a Stepford daughter, all smiles and fresh coffee. The few moments when she gets to express her conflicting emotions don’t really work; she has already given up and accepted her fate. There is Margaret (Corrinne Wicks, also off of Emmerdale) who has been living it up in that London, funding her extravagant lifestyle by writing lucrative articles about ladies’ undergarments in fashion magazines. She returns to the parsonage with a Dark Secret and drinks like a fish. Lastly, there is only begotten son Mick (Chris Grahamson, never been in Emmerdale) a soldier whose experiences have led him to agnosticism. These last two have a bit of fire to them – they sneak out to the pub and come back falling down drunk. Fair play to them but this activity scandalises visiting Aunt Bridget, a supposedly comic turn from Sally Sanders (Imagine Mrs Doyle in Father Ted, or even Agnes Brown come to think of it – well, she is nothing like them.) Also present is Aunt Lydia (Joanna Wake) an eternal optimist who, thankfully, is the least annoying of the lot.

The Dark Secret comes to light. Margaret is draining bottles at such a rapid pace because she got knocked up by an American GI in the war. He was killed but she had a secret baby who in his turn died at the age of four. Margaret kept all this from the family, fearing father’s reaction. The rest of the family understand completely but when Dad finds out, after some proselytising and mawkish sentimentality, demonstrates that parsons are human too, albeit kept at a remove from the society he tries to help because people won’t be themselves around him.

Margaret agrees to move back from London, releasing Jenny to marry the Scot and move to South America (!) and they all shuffle off for Christmas morning service at the church next door.

It’s all fairly well played by a decent cast – especially strong was Chris Grahamson ranting against everything his dad believes – but there is a quaintness to the play that has not dated well. The second act is deathly dull and needs editing with a chain saw. I found myself wishing I’d snuck out to the pub with Mick and Margaret.

The picture does not show the parson’s hair as it was when I saw it so you don’t get the full effect.