The Girl on the Train hit our shelves in 2015 and quickly became a smash hit. It sold way over 1 millions copies, topped the New York Times list of best sellers, claimed a Hollywood movie and now has its own stage show. So it’s a little bit popular.
I’m a huge thriller fan. I obsess over Disney but I’m addicted to crime novels, indicating I’m a conundrum… Predictably I’ve read the book, seen the film, because I will watch anything starring Emily Blunt (my girl crush) and I was sold as soon as I heard of the stage version.
It’s an absolute corker of a story
It centres around Rachel Watson, a drunken and isolated divorcee, who watches a couple on their balcony from her daily commute. She fantasies about their picture-perfect life, going as far as to give them names, jobs and personalities. Until the news comes out that the wife is missing. Rachel is soon entangled into the core of this mystery and, through her brain fog and mucky memory, attempts to solve the case. But she exposes more than she ever bargained for.
I remember the book was a real page turner. I read it in only a few hours. That did mean the film and theatre versions didn’t have the same suspense level, as they pretty much follow the book exactly. However, my friend knew nada about the plot and was kept guessing throughout the play. So my very scientific social experiment concludes, The Girl on the Train continues to keep ‘em guessing.
Struck by the extremely bare production
A modular system of sets move systematically on and off stage, with minimal projections to give location context. However, in this instance, and not to get all arty farty, I felt it was a good reflection of the void in Rachel’s life. She’s empty, lonely and incapable of true emotion thanks to her numb, drunken state. A stark set that almost swallows you into its blackness seems apt.
Some gritty performances
Even though the pace is sometimes sluggish, this small cast successfully create a tense atmosphere. There’s a lot of quiet space in a very big auditorium, so they did well to keep the audience captive.
Samantha Womack gives a raw performance as Rachel, capturing her vacant, confused and meek existence with a slow build to grit and self-worth. She barely leaves stage, if at all, and really drives this play. John Dougall adds light relief as D.I. Gaskill, peppering the stage with a genuine and charismatic presence that is welcomed among the intensity.
Oliver Farnworth is endearing yet volatile and a believable husband effected by the storm that comes with a missing person case. Kirsty Oswald is woven into the scenes as missing Megan using memories and flash backs, mainly adding monologues and short conversations to the narrative.
Adam Jackson-Smith as Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom, is menacing and obsessive, which is nicely balanced by Lowenna Melrose who perches by his side as Anna, his doting and pliable new wife and first-time mother. Finally, Naeem Hayat adds more complication to the story and fits the therapist role well, with his soft voice and thoughtful stare.
It’s a shame I felt the final scene didn’t do the whole performance justice, as it ended on a flatter note than I’d hoped. Maybe I got too hooked on the drama and I was left wanting more?
The Girl on the Train keeps you on your toes with a back to basics show that draws you into its dark and twisting story. You won’t get a fright but you’re bound to get a thrill!
The Girl on the Train is on at The Lowry until April 6th, and tours the UK all year. Find tickets here.