Reviewed by Helen McWilliams
The title of this ninety year old piece, for me, conjures up images of one of two scenes, the first being the popular and traditional ride found at fairgrounds, the second being that of a deserted old station which brings with it an eerie sense of foreboding. The latter would be the correct analogy when it comes to Arnold Ridley’s play. However far from being the thriller one would expect, it is indeed a comedy thriller which has the audience collectively gasping and then laughing in delight at the ‘slap-stick’ occurrences.
Fal Vale Station is set to close up for the night when a train stops there, courtesy of the communication cord having been pulled by an exuberant gentleman by the name of Teddie Deakin (played by Tom Butcher). The rest of the passengers who are stranded at the station due to Deakin’s ‘folly’ are unsurprisingly unimpressed to discover that they have to spend the night in the waiting room. Charles and Peggy Murdock (played by Chris Sheridan and Sophie Powels) are newly married and eagerly anticipating their honeymoon, Richard and Elsie Winthrop (Ben Roddy and Corinne Wicks) are not so newly married and discussing a separation. Either way, neither couple have anticipated waiting nine hours for a connecting train in the company of the perpetrator (Deakin).
The Station Master is not keen to stay with the group of stranded passengers and when he tells them why, a ‘journey’ commences which signals terror and hilarity. Jeffrey Holland plays Station Master, Saul Hodgkin, with a Cornish accent and superb diction, Holland plays the pivotal role astonishingly well and drew me in with his character’s story telling. Holland’s real life wife, Judy Buxton is the prim and proper Miss Bourne, who may appear to be the buttoned up spinster, but cheerfully informs her ‘companions’ that she was indeed “not neglected in my youth”, it’s a lovely eccentric part for Buxton which she embraces wonderfully.
The appearance of over-wrought Julia Price (Jo Castleton), her ‘concerned’ brother Herbert (David Janson) and Doctor John Sterling (John Hester) add an extra air of mystery to the fray. Castleton manages to create a delicious build up to the anticipated arrival of ‘The Ghost Train’, I for one, was gripped and found myself wanting to peer through the waiting room windows, too. It’s an atmospheric play, throughout and with not a weak link among the eleven-strong cast, I highly recommend that you go and see it. Buy your tickets to watch it at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, here: http://www.belgrade.co.uk/ alternatively, for remaining tour dates see http://www.talking-scarlet.co.uk.