The Signalman & The Waiting Room – Middle Ground Theatre Company
The Signalman and The Waiting Room are two supernatural tales dramatically brought to life by the Middle Ground Theatre Company. Featuring an ensemble cast and minimalist set design, these character driven performances are extremely entertaining and make for suitable ghoulish entertainment at this time of year. I had the pleasure of seeing a performance tonight at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, as the company currently tours the UK.
The first tale, Robert Aickman’s The Waiting Room, is the story of George Pendlebury (Jack Shepherd) who after finding himself marooned has to spend the night in the waiting room of a station. Inclement weather and increasing cold soon take a toll upon the man. Is he subject to a vivid dream or a supernatural visitation? Furthermore is he merely an idle spectator or directly linked to the unfolding events? The second story, Charles Dickens’ The Signalman is the study of a man plagued by a recurring spectre. Each time the ghost appears outside of the railway tunnel by his signal box, death and disaster follows. Why has this entity chosen this particular signalman (Jack Shepherd again) to haunt? Is it the herald of further tragic events?
Both stories are inventively presented, slowly building an atmosphere of tension. There are a few well timed jump scares, which embellish the story arc without mitigating the drama. Performances are universally good and keep the audience focused on the proceedings. Director and set designer Michael Lunney creates a modest environment for the cast to perform in but it works extremely well. The use of lighting, ambient audio effects and projected visual FXs, enhances the presentation immensely giving the cast, especially Shepherd, credible apparitions to react to.
The two stories, separated by a short intermission, run approximately forty five minutes each and make maximum use of their respective running time. This performance driven play offers thought provoking entertainment, as both stories do not necessarily provide a definitive, black and white conclusion. Overall this was a thoroughly entertaining night out and I would certainly be interested in seeing further material produced by the Middle Ground Theatre Company, as they seem to have a clear understanding and respect for this genre of play.