This was Ridley’s most successful play, written in 1923 and transferring to the West End before being made into a film comedy starring Arthur Askey.
In this production, set in the 1940s, the uneasiness of seven disparate characters in search of a connecting train in the eerie confines of an isolated Cornish station teeters on the edge of parody. The intentionally comic scenes, mostly at the expense of a prim elderly woman (imperiously played by Tina Gray), raise only a grudging smile.
The dun-coloured gloom of designer David Shields’s gaslit station waiting room and the clipped, staccato dialogue engender a nostalgic fondness that the sophisticated modern audience reserves for the age of steam and the telling of ghost stories. This indulgence extends to the quaint and casual sexism and class prejudice displayed by the alpha males in the group. Joanna Eliot as Elsie Winthrop neatly encapsulates the pert, brittle manner of the disillusioned wife. Barra Collins as the pesky Teddie Deakin agitates the complacent surface in his role as a latterday lord of misrule. With its spooky bells and whistles, and the seeping of dry ice through half-open doorways, it’s possible to perceive a creaking sort of charm in this period classic, preposterous plot notwithstanding.