The Ghost Train

Date 4th July 2019
Society Horncastle Theatre Company
Venue Lion Theatre, Horncastle
Type of Production Play
Director Priscilla Danby-Burbidge, assisted by Thomas Peckham


Author: Peter Breach

It was purely by chance that I recently had the opportunity to see this stage play at the Lion Theatre,
Horncastle, and what an amazing theatrical experience I found it to be. Arnold Ridley, OBE, was born
in 1896 and it appears that whilst a student at Bristol University he was paid £1 a week for playing
“bits and pieces” in productions at what is now known as the Bristol Old Vic. Ridley’s early
involvement with the stage was interrupted by his serving in WW1 which he describes as resulting in
his being “rather badly knocked about”, however he also went on to serve in WWII.
On return to England, Ridley began acting and writing for the stage and in 1923 he completed a
comedy thriller entitled “The Ghost Train”. Although he went on to write over 30 plays this appears
to be the only one which achieved popularity for him. Indeed, it was so popular that three different
film versions were made of the play. Unfortunately this work was not going to provide him with the
route to a fortune. In the 1920’s when he came upon hard times, Ridley sold the amateur rights to
“The Ghost Train” for £200, later realising he had lost a fortune in doing so.
The storyline of this play features the dealings that a group of railway passengers have with each
other when they are stranded at a remote station overnight. This gem of a play was skilfully directed
by Priscilla Danby-Burbidge, resulting in a highly polished performance from a dedicated group of
players who were well acquainted with its superb construction. A classic example was the very
effective noisy operation of the ticket hatch at exactly the right moment which caused many of the
audience to be visibly taken aback!
This production was extremely well cast and very appropriately costumed; there was much attention
to detail. The Ghost Train may not run on such a frequent service in the future but I feel it has many
more journeys to make.
Arnold Ridley came to notice through this play and latterly through his portrayal of the elderly
Private Charles Godfrey in the sitcom “Dad’s Army (1968 – 77).