The Signalman At The Theatre Royal Nottingham Review


Reviewed by Louise Edwards

Suspense and intrigue are the key themes for The Signalman play from the Rumpus Theatre Company, which is on stage at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal for a brief stint, until Wednesday 13 September, before embarking on a national tour.

The Signalman is based on a Charles Dickens’ short story of the same name.  The play is written and designed by John Goodrum who also plays the main protagonist in the play, Joseph Standcot. Goodrum is well known to the Nottingham Theatre Royal as he is a regular in the Thriller Season as is the play’s director, Karen Henson.

The theatre is plunged into darkness as the curtain rises and the stage is set out with a dark and dimly lit railway tunnel in the background. To the right of centre stage is the inside of the signalman’s cab and to the left a deep ravine leading upwards to life in Derbyshire. The time is 1860 and the fairly new arrival of the steam train.

Standcot is responsible for the signal on a one line train track.  It is night time and darkness envelopes the stage as he hears a voice calling from the top of the ravine.  The caller wants to come down to meet him and wonders what would be the best way to get there.  Standcot signals the way with his lamp and shortly after we meet a well dressed young man, Richard Brightwell played by Pavan Maru.  He is as friendly and amiable as Standcot’s is gruff and melancholy, but he soon gets the clearly terrified Standcot to open up and tell him his life story and what brought him to do this job.

Goodrum’s acting is perfect as he tells of his life and particularly his relationship with alcohol that has given him many regrets.  He is haunted by spirit from his past and indeed in the present.  Diligent in his work he wants to amend his ways but is wracked with guilt of what has happened in his past.

The first half which runs for around 50 minutes focuses on the Signalman’s story then after a 20 minute interval we hear the story of what brings Brightwell there.  The dialogue is captivating and draws you in to hear the stories of these men and slowly pulls you along – you have to remind yourself to breathe at times!

Lighting by Keith Tuttle and sound by David Gilbrook (who also plays the part of the train driver) is atmospheric and evocative.  As a train races metaphorically through the theatre, the audience feels the rush as it passes by with its whistle screeching a warning.

With Halloween just around the corner and the dark nights creeping up this spine chilling play is the perfect way to get in the mood retelling a classic ghost story – a brilliant night out and not to be missed.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £17(booking fees may apply).

The Signalman is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham until Wednesday 13 September 2023, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.

Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND

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