Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Ghost Train - review

Written by: Jessica Gardner (@JessyGardner)

Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley

As you step over the threshold into the theatre, you are taken back to the 1940’s on a cloud of smoke in the darkness. Wartime music floods the room, just like the smoke, whilst you settle into your seat. It is not entirely apparent as to why we are suddenly in the 40’s, when in fact the play itself is set in the 20’s; such little modernisation seems to have no effect upon the story whatsoever or have any meaningful bearings upon it dramatically. However, due to the impressive set, with brilliant attention to detail, from the GWR symbols printed on the glass of the windows of the train station waiting room, to the ticket hatch and photograph of King Edward on the wall, you are able to let this slide. 

Photo: Tony Nandi
The attention to detail is carried through into the costumes, which are impeccable, particularly the train conductors’ uniform, which comes fully fashioned with a gold pocket watch. But initially, the impressiveness falls short with the acting. The passengers enter the waiting room with an over acted 1940’s demeanour; from their voices to their physicality, everything is stiff and entirely lacking in emotion. It is of course necessary to have the attributes of men, women and couples of the period, with the appropriate manners, but such over statement without any life behind it leaves a bare shell, merely a ghost shall we say. The actors could be conveying love or hate and both would be played in the same way, which made for a rather dull first half.

Perhaps the passengers were simply just cold from having been left outside in the night and therefore needed time to warm up once inside before they were able to feel more lucid, free and candid with their emotions and bodies. There was certainly a difference between the first and second half in terms of performance quality; it seemed apparent that the older the cast member, the better the performance. Both Chris Bearne, who played Saul Hodgkin, and Tina Gray, playing Miss Bourne, were outstanding. They were the exceptions in the first half, both entertaining and believable.

However, I must recognise the clear talents of Barra Collins and David Palmstrom, who really display real character and ability. Indeed, the rest of the cast did pick up also in the second half meaning the production became more engaging.  

Photo: Tony Nandi
The Ghost Train is an entertaining piece of theatre that is appropriate for the whole family, perhaps a little too child friendly towards the end. It certainly contains a lot of ghosts, but also has enough tricks up its sleeve to keep you on your toes and leave you feeling warmed and satisfied like a glass of spiced mulled wine. 

This production runs until 5 January 2013. 

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