The Great Train Race, Oran Mor, Glasgow

The Great Train Race, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Brian Beacom


HERE's a challenge: take the story of a train race, set in 1895, and create an entertaining 50 minutes of stage action that leaves an audience ready to "Whoo, Whoo!" at the end of the show. Writer Robert Dawson Scott manages it, thanks to some very clever direction and some very strong acting performances - but you could tell this play was a locomotive that could so very nearly not have made it out of the sidings.

After all, the story of the competition between two rival train lines to see who could make it from London to Aberdeen in the shortest time, is filmic, or the stuff of novels, rather than the studio stage.

It's about how the Caledonian and Great Northern lines battled for supremacy, about how they used every trick in the book to make sure they won out.

The writer manages to make it work using many devices of his own.

He throws just the right amount of historical information at the audience through the device of actress Joyce Falconer playing the Signal Box, the narrator for the piece.

It's laughs a comedy needs and they emerge regularly, thanks to a clutch of cameo characters who witnessed this phenomenal and dangerous event first hand, from station managers and journalists to schoolboys and frightfully posh ladies.

As a result, the play zips along almost as fast as the 80mph it was claimed the trains achieved. The only thing that threatened to slow it down a little was Falconer's strong Doric dialect - and just a little too much corpsing from the male actors.

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