THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 5 OCTOBER 2019 & TOUR
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
RUNNING TIME 2 HOURS 20 MINUTES – 1 interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 30 SEPTEMBER 2019
If there is going to be one thing that polarises an audience when a book is adapted for a film or stage play, it will be those who know the original and those who don’t. When the book is a best seller such as Paula Hawkins’ 2015 thriller ‘The Girl on the Train’, opinions are likely to be strong.
I have neither read the book, seen the film or have had any prior knowledge of the plot of the story and so approach this with a fresh mind.
The psychological thriller is something of a rarity these days on stage, few crop up on the circuit and so it is rather refreshing to come up against the genre. As stories go, this is very interesting and as it moves along you find yourself drawn deeper into the machinations of the writer. A slow burner, to be sure, but the writers’ skill is to drip feed a thrill hungry audience with titbits of information, without telling them the whole truth until the very end. They play on the audience’s natural instinct to be the detective as they try and work out whodunnit. Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel have written this adaptation and have made a decent fist of it.
Rachel Watson’s life has taken a downward turn following her divorce and has sought solace in the bottle, the impact of which only becomes clear to her when she becomes embroiled in a missing person investigation. I will offer no spoilers here; suffice to say the plot is variously levelled and involves people she knows and some she thinks she knows.
As staging goes, this is slick, stylish and effective with the (almost compulsory these days) use of projections and sets which move stealthily on and off stage; it works well. Add to this, very effective lighting and a good soundtrack and the atmosphere is well created for the story to play out. Director, Anthony Banks, ensures that the story flows well and that the audience are kept on their toes – the complete silence from the packed theatre at the climax of the play showed he had achieved what he set out to. Scenes overlap and integrate with each other in a manner which is interesting and never obscures the narrative.
I have mentioned that the play takes its time in telling the story and reaching its conclusion; yes it does, and maybe the tension needs to be ramped up a little more here and there as it is rather confined to the final 15 minutes, but there is enough intrigue to get you thinking.
The downside of a play where the major character is so dominant is that the peripheral figures in the story can never be fully developed and so become ciphers and lack personality; the actors have very little to go on.
Samantha Womack takes on the role of Rachel with a rather understated approach and effectively let’s us know that here is a woman on the edge. Adam Jackson-Smith and Oliver Farnworth are solid as the men in her life and Lowenna Melrose is bitchy and vulnerable in turn as Tom’s new wife. Kirsty Oswald delivers the longest speech of the play and does so exceedingly well and there is a fine performance from the weary copper as played by John Dougal.
There is some good use of humour in the play which is well placed and provides the audience from some relief from the grim story.
This isn’t the greatest thriller ever, but taking it on its own, independent of its source, I found it very watchable and involving. Having recently reviewed a classic murder mystery which was very dull, this was like a blast of fresh air.
An undemanding piece of theatre, but well-staged and certainly not without interest. However, if you have read the book, you may have a very different view!
RACHEL WATSON – SAMANTHA WOMACK
SCOTT HIPWELL – OLIVER FARNWORTH
D.I. GASKILL – JOHN DOUGAL
KAMAL ABDIC – NAEEM HAYAT
TOM WATSON – ADAM JACKSON-SMITH
ANNA WATSON – LOWENNA MELROSE
MEGAN HIPWELL – KIRSTY OSWALD
ENSEMBLE – KATY ALLEN, MATT CONCANNON
ADAPTATION – RACHEL WAGSTAFF, DUNCAN ABEL
DIRECTOR – ANTHONY BANKS
SET & COSTUME DESIGN – JAMES COTTERILL
COMPOSITION & SOUND DESIGN – BEN & MAX RINGHAM
LIGHTING DESIGN – JACK KNOWLES