Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 23 – 28, 2019
The fabulous 500 play celebration year for Oran Mor’s Play, Pie and Pint continued with Peter Arnott’s masterful play, ‘The Signalman’, a monologue starring Tom McGovern. McGovern played one Thomas Barclay, the eponymous signalman, and concerned his memories of 40 years before when he worked as a signalman at the tender age of 24. The action started on a simple set on which was just a few chairs and a coat stand on which the actor hung his railway jacket as he quietly entered. It all somehow endowed the stage with a feeling of depth and sincerity.
As he looked back into the past, Barclay’s memories transported him back to the terrible night so many years before when it had been his signal that had sent the Edinburgh train on to the Tay Railway Bridge which collapsed taking many lives. We saw Barclay in turmoil as he turned over the events in his mind and in his long spotlit scene’s, reliving the subsequent inquisition he’d undergone from his powerful supervisors, an inquisition which mirrored his own doubts and feelings of responsibility. It was not hard to sympathise with him when he began to question his own sanity – no wonder…
The music in the piece took on quite a grave, ghostly character as the man went through torrents of suffering and plunged into the depths of despair, haunted as he was by visions where he was left all but a ghost. He had been so proud of his life and career, so when faced with this devastation it came all the harder. We followed each line to tremendous heights and then equally tremendous lows, and were affected by each spontaneous outcry as in the end he wept openly. We were left in no doubt about the impact of having your world turned upside down in this way.
This story was a tremendously moving tour de force, holding nothing back as we were taken on a rollercoaster of emotion, focussing on how one terrible event can deeply affect one individual, posing questions about how responsible we are for the things that happen to us and seeking all the time to find meaning for our lives. Take hankies!