The Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley
Performed at Dulwich College, April 2016
Review by Hannah Tomlinson
This was a production that impressed me from the outset, particularly with its sense of atmosphere, and a couple of extremely strong performances.
From the start, technical aspects and actors worked in tandem. While FX and staging created place and some sense of anticipation, Ian Jones’ excellent characterisation of Saul Hodgkin became initially known through his face peering through the waiting room window.
Throughout the play, the atmosphere shifted fluidly from tetchiness, to comedy, to thriller, and then through these moods again. As the Director, Sophie Taylor, outlined in her programme notes, she had a job on her hands to create suspense for a modern-day audience, from this 1920s play about a ghost train. But suspense there most certainly was.
Joshua Bradley-Hall’s performance of Teddie Deakin was a delight, bringing energy and fun to the stage in abundance. Moments like the ticket office flap banging caused most in the audience to jump I would hedge, which was then countered by Bradley-Hall’s subsequent joking around and wonderful facial expressions.
Sharren Taylor’s highly-strung representation of Miss Bourne also brought comic relief, particularly once she became rather inebriated!
All of the performers gave commitment and wonderful moments to the stage, but Sheree Clapperton, for me, was the other exceptional performance. The character Julia Price’s nervous energy filled her entire body, coupled with the strained and fraught voice (yet never as a caricature), which was quite captivating. What made the performance all the more astonishing was the stark transition to her true character at the end; I will certainly remember the Cockney cackle as she was dragged off-stage!
There were also lovely subtle moments of acting off-dialogue, especially from Lucinda Lane and Ally Shaw, whose contrasting reactions to events worked well to render the fear and tension more real for their audience, and contributed towards some lovely tableaux on the stage.
The use of the stage was effective throughout the play, never feeling contrived to my mind. Similarly, the use of special effects wholly contributed to the play’s atmosphere, with perfect timing that added real drama to the production.
I would feel churlish and picky to say anything other than positive comments about this production, which was a pleasure to watch from the start to the finish. I will be looking forward to any future productions involving any of this cast and crew.
Assistant Stage Managers
Front of House
Elily Lamm, Rachael Crowther
Paul Johnson with help from the Dulwich Players