It was a neat touch to follow Arnold Ridley’s The Ghost Train, the opening play in the Theatre Royal’s thriller season, with an offering which, if not exactly a sequel, is at least closely related.
In more ways than one, because The Shadow of the Ghost is co-written by Ridley’s son Nicholas with Chris Ponka and use the same set, which, at least gave designer Geoff Gilder a week’s breathing space.
These Nottingham thrillers are a classic example of old-fashioned repertory theatre, in which actors performed one play while learning their lines for the following week’s production.
Of eight principal characters in The Shadow of the Ghost, seven appeared in The Ghost Train and there wasn’t a single fluffed line from the TABS Productions’ Company cast.
The Shadow of the Ghost is set in the Regent Theatre, somewhere in the south-west of England where a second-rate am-dram society, the Lemon Tree Players, is rehearsing The Ghost Train.
Only a few members of the cast turn up for Sunday afternoon rehearsal.
Soon Michael Strobel’s stationmaster, rivaling Adrian Lloyd-James’s Ghost Train equivalent for a gloriously over-the-top West country accent, is regaling them with tales of a manager who hanged himself and an actor who died on the stage.
Clichés, puns, innuendo and inexplicable happenings follow in a comedy thriller which provides plenty of laughs and a few furrowed brows. There’s also a smattering of Agatha Christie as Susan Earnshaw’s character reveals herself as Miss Maple.
Andrew Ryan offers further glimpses of his talent in a totally different role to his silly-ass character in The Ghost Train and, indeed, the rest of the cast display similar versatility.
An entertaining and very funny, if somewhat convoluted play, which doesn’t take itself too seriously and is not afraid to send-up one or two theatrical traditions.