A play in counterpoint


"The music is inexhaustible. If I reach the end, I can repeat it, or just play a part of it again"

The Dream Train was Magnetic North’s debut production. It was commissioned from legendary Scottish playwright and musician Tom McGrath and performed for three nights at the Traverse Theatre in November 1999. 

In September 2020, we spent two weeks creating a new version of The Dream Train with live music to jointly celebrate our 21st birthday and what would have been Tom McGrath's 80th birthday.  The staged reading was filmed with social distancing in place in the atmospheric Main Hall at The Hub, Edinburgh and was premiered on Tom's birthday, 23 October 2020.

The play is based on the structure of J.S.Bach’s Goldberg Variations and the probably mythical story of its composition. The music is for keyboard and consists of an aria, played at the beginning and end, and 30 variations; it was supposedly written for a young pupil of Bach’s who had a night-time job playing music for an insomniac nobleman. The music of the variations threads in and out of the text, sometimes underscoring it, sometimes accompanying rhythmically-spoken sections.

The 2020 version was available to watch on demand from 6-29 August 2021 as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2021.

"In a castle somewhere on Scotland's east coast, a moth-eaten baron obsessed with the music of Bach struggles to sleep. He is tended by a strange androgynous figure, sometimes the young 18th century pianist Goldberg, sometimes a beautiful young girl who seems to love him; meanwhile, on a train lumbering up the same coast, the baron's beautiful but ageing wife meets an intensely attractive young man heading for the same station. For 90 minutes this quartet of characters weave their way in and out of one another's dreams and realities."

Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman (1999)

The Dream Train image
Written by  Tom McGrath
Director Nicholas Bone
Designer Emily James
Stage Manager   Louise Gregory
Music J S Bach
Film credits:  
Director of Photography Andrew Begg
Camera operator Alan Jones
Sound recordist Robert Anderson
Director & Editor Daniel Warren
Sound edit and mix Jenny Ek
Colour grading Stephen C. Horne
The Baron Sean Hay            
Laura Kirstin Murray
Goldberg / Julie / Tina Rachel Flynn
Chris Nicholas Alban
The Pianist John Harris


An Introduction to The Dream Train:

The Dream Train Trailer


"Beautiful to watch and hear and as intangible as the music itself...Recommended."
Fringe Review (2021)
"A playful, knotty and poignant look at the kind of insomnia that drives the artistic process, blurring dreams with reality."
The List 'The best online theatre at Edinburgh Fringe' (2021)
"The performances of all four actors really drew me into their world."
UK Theatre Network (2021)
Three To See and Stream.
This Week Edinburgh (2021)