Theatre Royal in Wakefield is currently holding its 17th annual drama festival, which comprises of seven different shows performed over seven days. The festival closes with a performance from St Austin’s Players of Ghost Train, written by Arnold Ridley. St Austin’s Players formed in 1991 as a way to raise funds for the restoration of St Austin’s church. However after their first performance, they quickly developed a love of performing and have gone on to perform many other shows and have become an integral part of the community.
Ridley wrote Ghost Train in 1923, following his own eerie experience at Mangotsfield railway station in Gloucester. The play follows the story of 6 passengers who become stranded at a remote railway station in the countryside. The station master asks them to leave the station but they refuse as they have no place to stay. He then goes on to warn them of the supernatural danger, from the spectral wreckage that haunts the line and brings death to all those who set eyes upon it. They still refuse to leave and the station master leaves them for the night. They soon regret this decision however as the nights events unfold. The main body of the play takes place in the waiting room of Fal Vale in south Cornwall and this is where we begin and end our journey.
The setting for the play was really well designed and executed. The space worked really well and I loved how all the scene changes were incorporated into the natural flow of the script. This play without doubt had the best sound and visual effects I have seen in a long time, particularly that way the train was simulated with the flickering lights and layered audio. As beautifully as the script was written to enhance the tension it was further enhanced by the eerie lighting. The costumes were also extremely well thought out to reflect the era and each one reflected the character wonderfully, for example Peggy Murdock’s pink dress not only broke up the darkness but reflected her youthful delicacy, whereas Miss Bourne wore an extremely conservative black dress that was delicately jewelled to hint at her elevated status and refinement.
It is extremely hard to single any of the performers out as each one did a fantastic job embodying their role, even down to the smallest of gestures. However it must be said that John De Tute’s portrayal of Teddie Deakin was the absolute highlight of the show. The character in itself was larger than life and De Tute completely dominated the stage with his hilarious antics and impressive stage presence. His portrayal was so obnoxious it was actually endearing and you couldn’t help but fall in love with his blissful ignorance. Unfortunately the actor playing Charles Murdock was unable to fill his role which meant that the director had to take his place and it has to be said that he did a wonderful job given the circumstances. The chemistry between him and Peggy Murdock was wonderful. It was entirely plausible that they were a newly married couple, and had it not been for the script in his and I wouldn’t have known he wasn’t intended to play the role.
The one fault in the entire show was that it lost a lot of momentum in the final act. All the carefully laid anticipation that was built in the first two acts, pretty much fizzled out and the conclusion seemed a bit lacklustre. Regardless I would absolutely recommend seeing this show it was utterly fantastic, full of twists and suspense that will leave you on the edge of your seat!
Reviewer: Amel Bashford
Reviewed: 3rd June 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★★