Gin and Tonic and Passing Trains
Dickens’ noted short story ‘The Signal-Man’ has passed into the canon as one of the major ghost stories of the 19th century, adapted frequently in film and television versions over the decades since. But Ramesh Meyyappan’s version eschews ghostly explanations for the apparitions and incidents that foretell catastrophe for the lonely employee in the railway signal box, in favour of a more secular interpretation of the supernatural events of the tale.
‘The ghostly haunting in this adaptation is a little more ambiguous,’ explains Meyyappan, one of the country’s foremost deaf performers. ‘I want the audience to consider if there is indeed a ghostly presence or whether alcohol, loneliness and the paranoia that both would create is the reason for “sightings’’.’
When developing the work Meyyappan was drawn towards the history of working class West of Scotland males, the social acceptance of alcohol in their lives and the ensuing consequences of that. ‘The character is still quite endearing and his dependency on alcohol is almost excused by his situation,’ he says. ‘However, this is in no way a lecture on alcohol abuse, just another layer of the character which in turn creates the ambiguity surrounding a ghostly presence.’
Meyyappan’s work is geared toward the visual, and he feels the genre particularly exploits this. ‘I think we all enjoy any theatre which plays with our emotions and fear is one of the strongest – I do think ghost stories also lend themselves to some strong visual ideas.’ But he’s aware that there are pros and cons to the adaptation of so legendary a tale. ‘I think one of the major advantages is that some of the audience will have read the story and so have their own ideas about the characters and the plot and they can follow the visual interpretation more easily.’
Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 28 & Sat 29 May