REVIEW: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (Royal & Derngate) ★★★★
April 24, 2019  //  By:   //  Plays, Reviews  //  Comments are off

Crime. Punishment. Murder. Revenge. Today’s readers grasp at topics such as these, devouring book after book to fuel their blood lust. These gory thrillers, now ubiquitous on Amazon, keep us entertained.

Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train was the book everyone was reading. Mystery and marriage breakdowns in suburbia. But with a book so full of personal thoughts, broken memories and frequent blackouts, adapting it for the stage could be tricky.

Not so. Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel have managed to transform the inner workings of our protagonist’s mind and translate them onto the stage.

Rachel Watson (Samantha Womack), is pitiable. Still struggling with the fallout of her divorce, she is unemployed, lonely and spiralling further into alcoholism. Every day she takes the train past her old house and watches the ‘perfect’ couple who live nearby. But Megan (Kirsty Oswald) and Scott (Oliver Farnworth) are not what they seem and when Megan goes missing, Rachel worms her way into Scott’s life as she tries to piece together what really happened…

The adaptation itself does present some glaring errors, and for those who have not read the book (or seen the film) it is quite confusing. Rachel’s memories are ‘remembered’ a bit too easily and parts of it are a bit rushed.

However, the direction (from Anthony Banks) is strong and all characters are believable. The way Megan flits about the stage telling her story is very effective and Oswald is a fantastic actor, bringing her guilt and emotion to the fore.

Lowenna Melrose (Anna) embodies her character well, although in the adaptation she has a much smaller role than the book, which is a shame as Anna has a lot of depth and Melrose could have really channelled this.

Several characters are missing but this almost goes unnoticed, although Rachel’s revelation about her ex-husband Tom (Adam Jackson-Smith) would have lent itself to the appearance of another character.

Samantha Womack embraces the reluctant, pathetic nature of Rachel well. At times she seems almost too lethargic, and could have been a bit more animated about her discoveries, but no doubt this was her interpretation of alcoholism and abuse.

James Cotterill’s set is a prime example of ‘attention to detail’. The stark contrast between Rachel’s shabby bedsit (complete with many empty bottles) and the others’ ‘ideal homes’ really epitomises how her life has changed.

Despite a few holes in the plot, this is an intense, gripping adaptation that is cleverly crafted and presented.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Manuel Harlan

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