The Girl on the Train Play

This review of Manon is courtesy of complimentary tickets given to me by The Mayflower Theatre – Features Press Images

A new production has hit the stage of the internationally acclaimed number one best-seller Girl on the Train. Paula Hawkins thriller gripped the entire world with over twenty million copies sold worldwide and is hands down one of the BEST books I have read. Since the book was released four years ago it has been translated to the cinema by Dreamworks but also debuted on stage last year starring Eastenders star Jill Halfpenny as Rachel. Both adaptions received mixed reviews and I was reluctant to watch either as I knew they could never live up to the intense, mystery of the novel. 

When I saw a new adaptation was heading to the Mayflower during it’s UK tour starring Samantha Womack as Rachel, I was intrigued to see how this had been translated on stage and having seen Womack perform before in the Adams family I was excited to see what she could bring to the role. Director by Anthony Banks and produced by Simon Friend, Girl on the Train Play has been completely rewritten and is set to hit 24 theatres over the next 6 months. 

From the moment the curtain rises we are introduced to protagonist Rachel, a commuter with a drinking problem and tempestuous past. Rachel longs for a different life, using alcohol as a catalyst for escapism through a new couple she secretly observes on her commute. Soon the lines between real life and fantasy become blurred as she desperately tries to recover the memories from one fateful night. As the story unfolds we follow this unreliable narrator as she tries to uncover the truth – Is she the killer or a damager observer? Only Rachel has the answers as she rattles through old memories, determined to get to the truth.

As she loses grip of her identity, the uncertainty grows surrounding her part on the night in question – is she a witness or in fact a suspect? Womack’s portrayal of the character takes you on a journey as you uncover the inner turmoil Rachel faces. She depicts an isolated, lonely character who is unpredictable yet fiery and strong. James Cotterill sets reflect this dark hole and really compliment the story. A question which we all asked was how they would portray the train journey which plays a vital role in the story. Through particularly inventive staging, they pulled this off with ease with each scene flowed into the next as you were transported along with Rachel from her dark and dingy flat to the old house she shared with her ex-husband and all the places in between.

The small but effective cast includes Samantha Womack who played Ronnie Mitchell on Eastenders for a decade. This was the first role for Womack where she doesn’t leave the stage for the entirety of the production but she has mastered the stage effortlessly. Former Corrie and Mr Selfridge star Oliver Farnsworth stars as Scott Hipwell, along with John Dougall as DI Gaskill, Naeem Hyayatt as Kamal Abdic, Adam Jackson-Smith as Tom Watson, Lowenna Melrose as Anna Watson, and Kirsty Oswald as Megan Hipwell.

Oswald gave an exceptional performance as Megal Hipwell with her dress becoming gradually darker as we delve further into her backstory through flashbacks with therapist Kamal and husband Scott. But it was her monologue which stole the show leaving the audience hanging onto her every word with even a tear shed for her poignant performance. Another stand out performance came from Dougall’s whose dry and dark humoured character demanded the full attention of the audience during his brief appearances on stage.

Having never actually seen anything in the theatre that was adorned with musical scores I was both intrigued and apprehensive about the performance. I found this theatre adaption equally as rewarding to the novel and the premise of the show had me on the edge of my seat. Although I am familiar with the story this didn’t hinder my enjoyment as I found myself  engrossed in the story and guessing throughout as the mystery unfolded. The staging, lighting, use of sound and exceptional small cast all tied together to give this knock out performance which I would thoroughly recommend. 

Catch The Girl on the Train Play at the Mayflower Theatre from 5th – 9th February 2019.

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