The Ghost Train (1978)

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Poster by Poster Designer

by Arnold Ridley

Directed and Designed by John Harris

Performances: Sun 1st – Sat 7th February 1978, Main Stage


Text about the play




" Running to time"

'Trains that go bump in the night are running to schedule at South London Theatre Centre, where the new season opens with Arnold Ridley's sturdy old comedy-thriller "The Ghost Train". And a very atmospheric production John Harris has given us, with a mouldering old pre-British Rail waiting room at Fal Vale, a wheezy old fire belching smoke (which smells like steam from the auditorium), and the visual effect of a train in motion behind the grimy windows. The final scene, in which villains are unmasked and the hero reveals himself, is so felicitously done, in the best traditions of Biggles and Bulldog Drummond, that we willingly forgive one or two weaknesses in the casting. I was not too happy, for example, with Stephen Marzella who, though speldid in the play's climax, is uneasy as the Woosterish character he sustains for most of the action. I once saw this roleplayed by the author's "Dad's Army" colleage, Ian Lavender, who knew just how far pastiche could be taken without tripping over itself. Worrying, too, are Edwin Stone and Dennis Packham as those two dubious characters Price and Sterling. They look like a couple of Pinter heavies and never quite catch the flavour of the piece. In general though, the production seems to me a model of how to meet the challenge of the 1920s. An amplified style is called for, and very emphatic delivery stopping short of gross caricature. Mr Harris seldom lets his characters go too far over the top, and we are always reminded that this is how people actually did talk in that distant age. Two superb performances come from John Lyne as Richard Winthrop, and Gill Leaper as Julia Price. When Mr Lyne says "This lady has put herself under our protection", we feel he speaks for the whole British Empire! As for Miss Leaper, she gives a bravura performance from a vanished tradition. She doesn't go over the top, because the role was written over the top. Good work, too, from Adrian McLoughlin as Murdock, and the usual reliable performance from Charles Cheetham as stationmaster Saul Hodgkin.'

Donald Madgwick (Croydon Advertiser)


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