It wouldn’t be August without the Theatre Royal’s Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season and the series could not have had a better start than The Ghost Train, an old favourite but still enormous fun.
The Tabs Productions’ cast includes some familiar faces and a sprinkling of newcomers to Nottingham.
Directed by Nicholas Briggs, they make a splendid fist of Arnold Ridley’s 1925 gem, freshening up an inevitably dated script with plenty of laughs.
Ridley – in later years Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army – based the play on personal experience of Mangotsfield, a gloomy change station near Bristol. Six people miss their connection and, as there is not another train due until 7am, must spend the night in a cold, dark and inhospitable Cornish waiting room.
Hereabouts, a word of praise for Geoff Gilder’s stark set, with vintage posters proclaiming the delights of Cornwall, contrasting with a general air of decay. It isn’t long before Adrian Lloyd-James’s station master is regaling them with tales of haunting and a terrifying ghost train.
Newly-weds Alan Magor and Sarah Wynne-Kordas, quarrelling couple Jeremy Lloyd-Thomas and Jacqueline Gilbride, eccentric spinster Susan Earnshaw and old panto and thriller favourite Andrew Ryan as a wonderfully OTT 1920s’ Bertie Wooster type are joined by a sexy Angie Smith for what turns out to be an eventful night.
Naturally, there’s far more to Ryan’s character than meets the eye but before the unveiling we are treated to a spine-chilling scene when the ghost train arrives with a series of seemingly mysterious events leading to apparent death.
The company is on safe ground with what is one of the best plays of its type, but they excel with a thoroughly streamlined performance.
The thrillers have always been worth watching – after all, they have delighted us now for around a quarter of a century – but it is safe to say that this cast is probably the most talented yet.