Rumpus Theatre Company,
7th November 2009
Jim Hutchon was in the stalls ...
This beautifully polished little gem of a play needed only hissing gas footlights to make the Victorian theme complete. Based on a Dickens short story, written at a time when audiences were still a little nervous of trains, John Goodrum’s play has all the elements of good theatre, including authentic Victorian dialogue, delivered with conviction and style by a pair of ex TV soap stars. Keith Drinkel (Corrie’s Liz McDonald’s boyfriend) is the eponymous signalman charged with seeing trains through his section from his trackside hut in the days before remote signalling, and Mark Homer (Eastender’s Tony Hill) is the young man quizzing him and his lifestyle.
A ghost story which predates Hollywood shock/horror, but where the live stage spooky effects still tug at the emotions and send shivers up the spine, the tale is a simple one of a ghostly warning of disaster, which is then fulfilled. The set was very basic but functional, with authentic signal hut equipment. And a special mention for the light, sound and smoke train effects across the Civic’s small stage which were stunning, and created the very real feeling that a train really had thundered across the auditorium and out into Fairfield Road. This was one of the best productions to come to the Civic this year, and was enjoyed by a near-capacity audience.