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.