Adapted from the best-selling 2015 novel by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, The Girl On The Train is currently on a UK tour following a West End run this summer and is presently at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley until this Saturday before running at 5 more theatres across the UK.
For those who are unfamiliar with the book or film, The Girl On The Train tells the story of Rachel Watson – a woman who has turned to alcohol to try and soothe her from remembering the breakdown of her previous relationship. Every day, Rachel fascinatingly watches the life of a young couple out of her commuter train window: until one day, the woman goes missing and Rachel may be able to help solve the puzzle of her disappearance.
The first thing to stand out is misé-en-scene of the production. James Cotterill with set and costume, Ben & Max Ringham on sound design and Jack Knowles and Andrzej Goulding on lighting and projection design do an incredible job at keeping a simplistic yet effective setting: the projections and soundscapes making the train scenes completely compelling. In addition, a really nice touch from Cotterill’s choice of costume is to only see Rachel only change right at the climax of the production, as she finally gets sober, going from a black to cream jacket to illustrate her fresh start.
Of course, the creative team help to compliment Anthony Banks’ direction and staging, which is admirably done, particularly during the therapy and flashback scenes. Banks’ cleverly helps to mirror Rachel’s internal thoughts through split mirrored scenes of reality and memory, again complimented by the Ringham’s sound design.
Samantha Womack, of Eastenders fame, takes on the coveted role of Rachel; and after previously seeing her in the role of Morticia Addams in The Addams Family tour back in 2017, it is clear she has great range as an actress. Womack eases between Rachel’s range of emotional and physical states, clearly progressing from a stronger to weaker drunken drawl as Rachel sobers up to help crack the case and save herself.
The rest of the cast deliver performances that help to create an ensemble feel to the piece, but a mention must go to Kirsty Oswald as Megan, as she delivers Megan’s secret with true sincerity. It is a shame that unlike Paula Hawkins’ novel, that like the film, Wagstaff and Abel decide to keep Rachel as the key focus and not delve further into Anna and Megan’s inner thoughts and narratives. However, Wafstaff and Abel’s addition of some humorous moments help to elevate an otherwise melancholy tale.
The second half is an improvement on the first, as the tension to the final reveal builds. However, the final climactic scenes are slightly underexplored and at times underwhelming, which is a real shame. Expanding on Rachel’s moments of realisation, as Hawkins’ so masterfully does in the book, would have been great to see – and the components were there with Banks’ previous staging techniques. Likewise, the death scene could have been played up further.
Predominantly, The Girl On The Train is a night of true escapism, as the audience are truly taken on a ride. Its West End run was mainly panned by critics, so perhaps it is not for everyone: but go for an enjoyable and not too taxing night at the theatre bolstered by proficient cast and creative.