Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

train cast

Heading for divorce, Elsie (left) and Richard Winthorpe played by Katy Ball and Tom Rees,  Chris Kay as Teddie Deakin, Beth Dalton's Julia Price and Colin Young as John Stirling, along with the newly weds, Charles and Peggy Murdock played by Chris Davies and  Jennifer Groome.

Ghost Train

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


As we enter into the winter season and the nights draw in and are cold and rainy, in other words just like summer, then what better time to enjoy the atmosphere of a great ghost story. When Arnold Ridley, the gentle soul, famous as Private Godfrey in Dad's Army, wrote The Ghost Train back in the 1920s, he could not have envisioned this waiting room drama to have endured in the way it has.

It’s a simple tale of a group of railway passengers’ enroute to Truro, becoming stranded one stormy night and having to spend it in a haunted waiting room. Considering the time it was written it has an elegant charm rather than any gory shock factor and whilst it won’t truly scare you, it does have some moments of great suspense. These are created mainly by the contrast of stiff upper lip humour and gentlemen rivalry that flows between the strangers as they navigate the night and each other.

It’s a mixed bunch of personalities too. Chris Kay plays the overbearing Teddy Deakin, the seemingly self-centred man who pulls the communication cord on a train just to rescue his hat. It’s this thoughtless act that has ensured everyone gets to spend the night in the stations cold waiting room.

Richard Taylor channels comedian Jethro, to deliver his best West Country accent as Saul Hodgkin the dismissive, dusty and uninterested station master. There’s great intensity in his performance when as he retells the legend of the ghost train to his stranded audience.

Then there’s newlyweds Charles and Peggy Murdock, played sweetly by Chris Davies and Jennifer Groome. Forced to spend their honeymoon night with strangers, their obvious need to reach their destination is something of a secret they keep to save their embarrassment.

station master

Richard Taylor as station master Saul, left, with Charles Murdock played by Chris Davies, Richard and Elsie Winthrope, played by Tom Rees and Katy Ball and Miss Bourne played by Sandy Tudor

In contrast are the potentially soon to be divorced, Richard and Elsie Winthorpe played by Tom Rees and Katy Ball. As the couple debate the difficulties in their relationship, the situation they find themselves in, enables them to reconcile their differences. This contrast in the two married couples at different points in their marriages, adds a tone of reality to the often comical asides that everyone begins to hurl at each other.

An example of that is Sandy Tudor who adds inebriated humour as the spinster Miss Bourne. In order to calm her mounting fears she drains Teddy's hip flask full of brandy, an act that sees her sleep off the rest of the play.

Beth Dalton gets a chance to hold the limelight as the psychologically troubled Julia Price. Julia has witnessed the ghost train for herself and has been tormented by the memory. She returns that night in the hope to see it one more time, to prove its existence and save her sanity.

She’s accompanied by the shifty Dr John Stirling played by Colin Young. He’s convinced his patient is deluded about the ghost train, but his ulterior motive for everyone to leave the waiting room is a mystery that eventually becomes the final twist to this one room play. Not forgetting latecomer Dan Taylor as the policeman Jackson.

Director David Wakeman nicely keeps the production flowing and the costumes by Donna Abram and Carol Wright greatly adds to the period atmosphere. So too does the lighting with its muted yellow tones, nicely mimicking the gaslight of the old station. This is a true company performance where everyone excels in their parts. It’s a slick, well timed and performed play and as an Agatha Christie type comedy thriller, it consistently entertains.

Having resisted the train puns so far, it’s suffice to say that seats are apparently limited, so if you want a ticket to ride, do it as quickly as you can, as there’s no standing room and the Ghost train will be departing by Saturday, 2 December.

Jeff Grant


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