The Girl on the Train
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Runs: 2h 0m: one interval: till 25 May
Not great but better than the book.
The Girl on the Train is, of course, adapted from the phenomenally successful yet seriously over-rated novel of the same name. A happy duty to report, therefore, that the play, though not great, is better than the book.
In print, the three main females are shallow and insufficiently differentiated. They take turns to narrate but do so in a similar throw-away register so it’s often difficult to tell who’s supposed to be talking. Things are easier for the playgoer: for starters, you can see the characters; and instead of hopping about between three centres of consciousness the narrative is far more focused on troubled protagonist Rachel, the girl on the train.
She’s played by Samantha Womack, in an excellent performance. Rachel is a youngish and good-looking woman fallen into a pit of alcoholism, a picture of self-neglect. Womack manages to capture the required sick look and over-controlled and careful speech.
Another better than serviceable performance comes from John Dougall, as Scottish detective D I Gaskell, a broken-down, no nonsense copper. With a failing marriage – there’s a suggestion it’s a gay one – Gaskell is also an alcoholic, this time of the recovering sort, so he doesn’t drink on duty.
All the female actors do well at the usually unspoken rivalries and jealousies; more than one of the women has shared the affection of the same man. But the actors get little help from the script when it comes to delineation of character.
So too the male actors. It’s the same difficulty the novelist laboured under. Except for the police, all the men are the same age and same social class, so it almost follows that they too have the same speech register.
Perhaps the most terrifying moments of the play are achieved by the special effects, sound, and back projection, all of which are first-rate.
Since it’s a modern thriller, when the body is found, there’s a scene of crime episode that could be straight off the telly; all plastic no-entry tape and visibility vests.
Rachel Watson: Samantha Womack
Scott Hipwell: Oliver Farnworth
DI Gaskill: John Dougall
Kamal Abdic: Naeem Hayat
Tom Watson: Adam Jackson-Smith
Anna Watson: Lowena Melrose
Megan Hipwell: Kirsty Oswald
Ensemble: Matt Concannon
Ensemble: Phillipa Flynn
Director: Anthony Banks
Set and Costume Designer: James Cotterill
Composition and Sound Designer: Ben and Max Ringham
Lighting Designer: Jack Knowles