Monday, 1 June 2015

The Ghost Train, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester 30/5/15

The latest production at the Royal Exchange sees theatre company Told by an Idiot return with their take on Arnold Ridley’s Ghost Train. Ridley, who many will remember best as Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army, enjoyed considerable success with this play, when it first opened in London in 1925, where it played for over two years. The plot of this comedy thriller revolves around a group of passengers stranded at a remote country railway station overnight, having ignored the station master’s dire warnings to leave as a ghost train haunts the line bringing death to anyone who sets eyes on it.

Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed Told By An Idiot’s previous two productions,  You Can’t Take it with You, and Too Clever by Half,  in the main space at the Royal Exchange, I was looking forward to the same brand of eccentric humour and riotous laughs from this production, but for me, despite some fun and inventive elements, and good performances, I found it unengaging and slow.

There are plenty of chuckles throughout. Javier Marzan as a drunken Miss Bourne being a particular highlight, and the talented cast work extremely well together to deliver the piece. Timing is precise, and there is some fun and cheeky interaction with the audience.  There is innovative use of set and sound, I particularly liked the opening sequence as the train was brought to life by the cast. But, whilst other productions have been lively and well-paced, the first act of this play felt terribly slow and disjointed, and takes over an hour to get to the pivotal moment. I hoped that things would pick up in the shorter second act but even though the story moved on considerably, the pace still felt stilted and sluggish.

At times I felt like I was watching rough draft of a play, talented actors and good moments but in need of editing. Whilst there are amusing characterisations and fun elements, it verges on the self-indulgent at times. Just because you have some mildly amusing ideas you don’t need to put them all on stage and lose sight of the need to also move the action on.

Despite my reaction to the performance, and my disappointment in the production for not living up to my hopes for a riotous afternoon of comedy and / or chills, there were plenty in the audience who would disagree with me and seemed to enjoy themselves immensely.

Mildly amusing in places, but no real scares, talented cast and nice staging, but for me it never lived up to the sum of its parts and was a frustrating and disappointing production.  

No comments:

Post a Comment