The Ghost Train

Date 26th October 2017
Society Tamaritans Theatre Company
Venue The Red House, Plymouth School of Creative Arts
Type of Production Play
Director Nina Jarram

Report

Author: Gareth Davies

The Ghost Train was first produced at St Martin's Theatre in London in 1925. Arnold Ridley – Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army - wrote the play whilst being stranded at Mangotsfield railway station in Bristol and it took him only a week to write.

Set in a 1920s cold, damp, tired station waiting room, with green tiled fireplace and old station clock, the set looked completely authentic with peeling poster and old chairs. The windows, however, didn’t look that realistic and of course Julia can’t break the window in the ghost train scene which was a lost dramatic moment.

Nerves were apparent, particularly towards the beginning of the show and this slowed the pace at times but the cast kept going.

The hard work and time that they had obviously put into this production paid off. A few blocking issues meant we couldn’t sometimes see all the characters clearly, but generally I really enjoyed the director’s staging and the hilarious, absurdist style she cleverly adopted at times. 

Saul Hodgkin, the station master, was wonderfully played by Steve Baker, making the most of his evocative ghost speech. Great projection, expression and accent made his performance a good opening to the show.

Experienced actors Barbara Shakespeare and Rob Howard as Miss Bourne and Richard Winthrop were very convincing in the portrayal of their respective characters. Catherine Teague sensitively played his gentle, worried wife Elsie with a growing sense of hysteria.

The young married couple Charles and Peggy Murdock (Andrew Horigan and Chloe Crouch) portrayed their newly married relationship well. I would have liked the director to have worked on Charles’ stance and posture, however, as he came over as very 21st century rather than 1920s. Dialogue could also be slower and more clearly enunciated at times from these younger actors too. Sometimes when Peggy turned upstage we lost her projection but this was a lovely portrayal of the young, naïve girl.

Teddie Deakin, acted by the exuberant Tim Randall, was a real treat going for the over the top, delightfully childish camp  and then reverting at the end of the play to his true self and revealing he was not so asinine as he appeared. Great projection in every way and an energetic performance reminding me somewhat of the great Terry Thomas!

Herbert Price was portrayed by Karl Davis, playing the brother of Julia, and Dr Sterling played by Noel Preston Jones, both acted securely, although again I would have liked to have seen Karl’s stance and character to be more of the period and he did stumble over some lines during his monologue. Noel Preston Jones has a lovely, mellifluous baritone voice which suited the piece, the character and the genre perfectly.

Rona Perry gave a hilarious performance as the troubled Julia, giving it her full gusto, and goodness knows what she was doing to the armchair at one point!

Last but by no means least, Jackson the policeman was authentically acted by Richard Haighton. Very believable characterisation and a veritable luxury for this company to wheel out an actor of his calibre in a cameo role at the end.

Costumes were generally authentic with the women looking correct but some of the gentlemen’s suits were not of the 1920s period but more modern - and I do wish actors would pay more attention to their shoes and to wearing braces, especially in period pieces.

A lot of effort had been made to create an authentic GWR railway station waiting room. The audience engagement and reactions showed that this was a good choice of play to put on at Halloween and it was really enjoyed by all.

Well done to the cast, director and crew for a very pleasurable evening.