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Review of Classic Ghost Stories - Darlington Civic Theatre

GHOST stories are always going to draw a crowd, especially at this time of year, but can be incredibly hard to pull off on stage. Middle Ground Theatre Company brought two to The Civic Theatre in Darlington, a very ambitious project.

Both stories relating to railways but both very different. The first was The Waiting Room by Robert Aickman, not exactly a classic, but an interesting tale of the traveller – Pendlebury, Jack Shepherd, who was on his way to a conference who has ended up at a station late at night where the next train isn’t until the morning and there are no hotels nearby. It is fairly predictable as we follow ghostly encounters through the night but ends with twists and surprises the following morning when the Stationmaster, Richard Walsh arrives bringing a little bit of life to proceedings.

The second piece, The Signalman a short story by Charles Dickens, certainly stands out as the highlight of the evening. Following an extended interval of around 30 minutes for the set to be completely transformed from the waiting room to a Victorian railway signal box with train tracks running into an ornate tunnel. No detail has been missed in this set from the gravel around the tracks to the small details in the signal box. The set itself deserved a round of applause upon its reveal.  Attention was also paid to the use of props, which included steaming cups of tea. The Signalman is a much better known story and Jack Shepherd as The Signalman and Richard Walsh as the traveller put in fantastic performances to make this the only ghost related production I have seen to rival The Woman in Black.


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