The Ghost Train
By Arnold Ridley
Production Date: 1st – 3rd December 2022
Directed by: Hazel Hughes
Photography by Andrew McKerlie: www.mckerlie.co.uk
This is one train not subject to strikes unless we count the striking set designed by Simon Johnson which, together with brilliant sound effects and lighting by Anthony Gofton and Tony Mellerick, helped the Wychwood Players’ fine actors to bring this rather dated play to life.
However, it’s hard to cavil at a play that has lasted for a century although it is ironic that Arnold Ridley never benefitted from substantial royalties as he sold the rights in the 1920’s for £200.
The slightly unrealistic story by today’s standards provided nostalgic entertainment but it probably needed more references to the febrile between-the-wars atmosphere to explain the plot twists.
Director Hazel Hughes gave us a smooth nicely-paced production with only the odd prompt.
At first it seemed that James Dixon’s exaggerated portrayal of Teddie Deakin evoked too many memories of his outrageous Dame in last year’s King Arthur panto but the finale justified his confident performance.
In contrast to his normal pedantic roles, Phillip Croxson was splendid in his role of a simple Cornish station-master while Aram Gregory gave his customary accomplished performance as the husband of Sarah Pratt, a convincing twenties-style flapper.
Will Gofton and Keira Dixon, playing the newly-weds, demonstrated their mature acting skills while a Players newcomer, Simon Johnson showed some neat touches with audience-aware timing as well as deserving credit for his set design.
Joanna McKerlie provided a delicious drunken turn which earned a round of applause but then she was sadly consigned to spend the rest of the play almost unseen and comatose at the back of the stage.
Ralph Wears and Rachel Read played their devious roles appropriately while Luke Rasdall gave us a glimpse of his big stage presence in a supporting role.
The sound and lighting effects made the ending of Act 2 a dramatic experience and a major talking-point for the receptive audience. The ladies’ twenties fashions were attractively costumed by Rose Hartley and Sue Mellerick.
This vintage vehicle was on the right lines in delivering an entertaining if undemanding evening of steam-age diversion in these digital times.
1 December 2022