THEATRE / Out of steam: Paul Taylor sees The Ghost Train rolling on at the Lyric, Hammersmith
Wednesday 02 December 1992
By staging an entrance just as the goodies are drawing sighs of relief, a wraith could really put the cat among the pigeons here. In fact, while watching John Adams' likeable production, I found myself entertaining the fantasy - well, you had to do something with your mind - that the shade of Eamonn Andrews would shimmer in at the close, dressed as the legendary spectral station-master, singing 'Rock of Ages' and carrying a red book as well as a red lamp. This he would shyly hand to the actor playing the station-master, saying 'Bill Oddie, this is your life' - by which stage, of course, a change of tense might well be called for.
With its camped-up, freeze- frame cliffhangers at the end of each act, the atmosphere of jokey jumpiness it skilfully creates, and the sudden spoofy surges of orchestral urgency (there's a very funny one on the cry 'Bolshies]' together with a thunder-struck lighting-switch), Adams' production makes all the right moves, so I wish I could say I enjoyed myself more. The acting certainly has the necessary close-to-caricature edge, although for the first half of the play I thought Aden Gillett might be overdoing his disguise as a monocled, upper-class prat. You began to wonder why his fellow passengers, stranded supperless for the night in the rain tossed, haunted waiting room, did not think of turning to canibalism.
Richard Stirling and Kate Hardie are a delight as the innocent, gosh-I-say young newly weds, whose wedding night fails to reach its intended destination (so different those days from now when full-scale nookie on Network SouthEast causes less complaint than the post-coital Benson & Hedges).
But 'period charm' can often just be polite code for saying 'Well, it must have been charming once' and not all the respects in which The Ghost Train has dated are agreeable. There's an unpleasant smugness, for example, in the way the hauntings reduce Elsie (Catherine Russell), a young, independent-minded wife who wants out of her marriage, to a comic nervous wreck who says things like 'Oh, I've been such a fool, Dick. Such a fool.'
The main problem is that the play is neither funny or scary enough and though there are some good camp lines towards the end, the text is mostly feeble. The best dialogue I heard all night was in the interval. A man in his mid- sixties pointed to a picture of Selina Scott in the Standard. 'Real or false?' he asked his nonplussed wife. 'Her own or a wig? I say wig.' Wife: '??]]' Husband: 'She's the one who's had a brain op, isn't she?' Wife: ']]??'
Continues at the Lyric, Hammersmith, London W6 (081-741 2311).
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Heavy rain and years of 'benign neglect' may have caused Apollo Theatre roof collapse
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber isn't retiring from music after all
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
- < Previous
- Next >