The Titfield Thunderbolt, Warehouse Theatre, Ilminster

AGAINST a background of doom and gloom, it’s hardly surprising that theatregoers are champing at the bit for a chance to return to venues as audiences watching their favourites, friends and families on stage again.

It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect play than Philp Goulding’s version of the famous film The Titfield Thunderbolt, and Irene Glynn’s production, re-opening the Warehouse Theatre in Ilminster to a live audience, answers all expectations.

The 1953 original, with its screenplay by TEB Clarke, was partly filmed at Freshford near Bath, but what the Ilminster production obviously lacked in landscape it more than made up in ingenuity, even getting the audience thoroughly involved in the plot. It’s all about what happens when the branch line to Titfield is tabled for closure – a catastrophe which threatens the very life of the village.

At one end of the social spectrum, Lady Edna Chesterford and the vicar plan to run a train service themselves. At the other, the ne’e-r-do-well Vernon Crump buys an old omnibus and plans all sorts of skullduggery and sabotage to ensure the success of his alternative mode of transport.

But of course he reckons without the power of the people, and we, the people (in the audience), do our darndest to uphold the status quo.

The great delight of this show is the doubling, and this talented cast gets the very most out of the opportunities.  Ken Steed is the wonderfully seedy former railwayman and current poacher as well as the Brummie Government Inspector Mr Ruddick, John McGrouther is the pompous Town Clerk and the unworldly Vicar, Vernon Dunkley as delightfully twinkly wealthy dipsomaniac, with a cameo role as Mrs Bottomley, Yvonne McGuinness as porter Mr Clifton and burlesque star and Welsh accented Miss Coggett, and Ben Overd as two handsome young bucks, set to bring Kayleigh Storey’s heart to full flutter.

Maggy Goodall, who introduces the proceedings as the Lady of the Manor should, is a patrician Lady Chesterford, with a liking for mild and bitter, and her opponent is Neil Morgan as the villainous Crump

It’s a great version of a cherished story, cleverly staged and enthusiastically performed. Welcome back Ilminster Entertainments Society and welcome back audiences.


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