The Signalman

Based on the short story by Charles Dickens, Unexpected Places Ensemble’s adaptation of The Signalman is a creative if confusing adaptation as the creative team tries to create a chilling atmosphere within the theatre.

Trying to turn Dickens' story into something it’s not

Re-told by a sudden visitor to an unnamed sleepy English town, we hear a story of an isolated Signalman, who is plagued by a spectre whose appearance precipitates a tragic event.

The Signalman is a stylised tech-heavy theatre piece. The default setting is a blackout with the lights flashing every so often in order to show us the tableaus created by the cast, which is only brought into context by the sound effects and voiceover narration. The only problem with this is, being plunged into sudden darkness is not particularly scary, especially if it's repeated several times. The confusion at what is being shown onstage comes from the fact that the tableaux are not always particularly identifiable, but this problem mostly occurs when the voiceover goes into the narrator’s own musings rather than the events. Whilst all of this is an interesting artistic choice – to have the cast to act out scenes silently so that they almost become restless spirits in this reenactment – it’s not exactly chilling.

There's a great lack of clarity surrounding the figure. At no point is it explained particularly well and we never quite make the connection about why it appears. Also, at some point it seems like there are two of them, or the ghostly figure is someone else. It’s also not a vengeful spirit in any sense, it’s just kind of there and it’s very possible that the creative team are trying to turn Dickens' story into something it’s not.

It’s a unique attempt at trying to recreate a ghost story onstage. Unfortunately the creative team miss the point of what makes other theatre recreations of ghost stories so great; it’s not only the technical aspect by the unrestrained malevolence of the spirit. The Signalman is more of an exercise in how more stylised techniques can be used in theatre rather than a ghost story.

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The Blurb

'For God’s sake, clear the way!' Based on Charles Dickens’ ominous short story, The Signalman is haunted by a chilling apparition whose presence always precedes catastrophe. For fans of The Woman in Black, this thrilling theatre experience will leave you with chills down your spine. Engulfed by sound and darkness, Unexpected Places Ensemble will take you on an absorbing journey through a classic ghost story, in this premiere performance. 'Below there! Look out! Look out!'

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