Keeping mystery on track

The Ghost Train

Belgrade Theatre

****

IT IS a stormy night and six weary travellers look as though they must spend the night on a windswept and isolated Cornish railway station.

The year is 1926, the outlook is bleak and the company is already irritable. Company Director Richard Winthrop (Dick – Ben Roddy,) who has a sergeant majorly air about him, and his independently spirited wife Elsie (Corinne Wicks) are married a year and at war.

Newly unemployed and desperate Charles Murdock (Chris Sheridan) and his very new wife Peggy (Sophie Powles) married less than a day and worried.

Teetotal Miss Bourne (Judy Buxton) travelling alone with bird in cage sleeps through thhollande whole endeavour after a shot of recuperative brandy. Teddy Deakin (Tom Butcher), previous owner of brandy and a superficial air of triviality and humour, has been the cause of their mishap though losing his hat.

The station master Saul Hodgkin (Jeffrey Holland - pictured) in broad Cornish refuses their pleas to stay with them overnight because it is the 20th anniversary of a serious and fatal rail crash at the very spot. The ghost train of the title is expected at 11pm and he is off – thank you very much!

A fair number of the characters aren’t what they seem but everything turns out OK in the end . . . This play, from Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army if you’ve forgotten) was inspired by a real event and written together with a large body of other work when times were hard in the acting profession. It was the longest running play in the West End for years and has also been made into a film a few times, so it is an interesting revival.

There are, to be fair, a number of holes in the plot, but who cares? It’s a very entertaining story and gets even better when a strange and rather trying trio arrive in full evening dress. Julia Price (Jo Castleton) in the most gorgeous handkerchief dress, does a histrionic turn about the train’s appearance, her brother Herbert (David Janson) doesn’t stay and a so-called doctor (John Hestor) presumably from some sort of asylum takes care of Julia’s nerves.

The set is a marvel, managing to imply so much from so few clues, mainly lighting and sound special effects. All in all, the twists and turns of plot are a mind-mangling treat, the traditional nature of the production, directed by Patric Kearns, is great homage to a great story told well – which is what we want. I particularly liked the start, even before the curtain went up, when a lovely plumy Received Pronunciation voice with vestigial Home Service overtones, read us the cast list and left us to it. To 16-05-15

Jane Howard

12-05-15 

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