Sunday 16 June 2019

The Signalman: Ghost story brings out Dickens' dark side

The Signalman The New Theatre, Dublin Until Dec 15

Marcus Lamb and Daniel Reardon in 'The Signalman' at the New Theatre
Marcus Lamb and Daniel Reardon in 'The Signalman' at the New Theatre

The idea of adapting a Charles Dickens ghost story as a Christmas show sounds like a good one for WitchWork and The New Theatre. It's like a slimmed-down version of the concept that used to keep the Gate Theatre occupied for the festive season.

Adapted by Jane McCarthy, the eponymous Signalman (Daniel Reardon) is troubled by seeing a warning ghost before disasters occur on his railway line. He is visited by a Gentleman (Marcus Lamb), a doctor on holiday, who disbelieves the Signalman's stories. The Gentleman has no time for the fanciful, having recently dealt with the tragedy of his own sister having a nervous breakdown, she too being troubled by ghosts.

Psychiatry and the supernatural compete for the ownership of truth.

The haunted subject matter has brought out the morose side of Dickens's talent, rather than the comedic, or the linguistically playful. Reardon and Lamb, directed by Matthew Ralli, play this down-beat to the max, so the result is a general air of gloom.

Impressive design by Lisa Krugel (set), Paul Doran (lighting) and Carl Kennedy (sound) give the show a nicely polished feel. But this ghost story hasn't been fleshed out enough to make for a truly satisfying evening.

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