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

First class return just the ticket

The Titfield Thunderbolt

The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


THERE are so many eye-popping sets and props in this clever production they almost divert your attention from the quality of the cast in Philip Goulding's adaptation of the 1953 film.

Wooden steam trains, a passenger carriage, an impressive steam roller and a bus were, in the main, designed and constructed by the play's director-producer Martin Groves and his team, as well as the station and platform plus the bar of the Pig & Whistle pub.

The vehicles are neatly manoeuvred around the stage in amusing fashion by the players, and they even manage to create a realistic rain storm at one point.

At times the plot is a little far fetched, but the enthusiasm of the cast carries the action through the occasional blips to such an extent that they earn cheers at the end of the trip.

Julie Lomas is outstanding as Lady Edna Chesterford who leads the campaign to prevent British Rail closing the branch line serving the fictional village of Titfield, and she has excellent support from Gary Pritchard, the railway enthusiast vicar, Sam Weech, delighted to have an opportunity to drive the train when the villagers win permission to run the service for a trial period.

But they have to cope with opposition from Vernon Crump (Robert Onions) and his son Harry (Dexter Whitehead) who stoop to sabotage in an effort to win the business for the coach company they set up.


There's a brilliant scene when Whitehead - playing a bit of a country bumpkin - pops up as a policeman to arrest his dad while considering suggestions that he reminds people of someone.

Fine performances, too, from David Stone as wealthy villager and champion boozer Walter Valentine who bankrolls the experiment on being told that the train can run a bar which would be open daily before the local pub.

Kerry Frater is sound as Welshman Dan Taylor, a former railway employee, and Christina Peak excels as Joan Weech, niece of the vicar and love target for sometimes hapless Harry.

The play offers numerous opportunities for audience participation, particularly at the public meeting staged in the village hall and when various receptacles - a chamber pot, teapot, biscuit barrel and tin bath - are passed from the rear of the auditorium to the stage to be poured into the train's boiler after the scheming Vernon Crump has blasted the line's water storage tank with his shotgun.

Funny scenes, too, as the train containing passengers pulls into the station and the bus shakes up its customers driving over a hump-backed bridge.

Oh, and on a couple of occasions a spectacular giant cockerel darts across the stage and through the central aisle of the theatre. Why? I don't know, but it raised a laugh. It makes you yearn for a return of the steam age!

Every ticket has been sold for The Titfield Thunderbolt which finally reaches the end of the line on Saturday night 28-05-11

Paul Marston 

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