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Samantha Womack in Girl On The Train . Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

REVIEW | The Girl on the Train | UK Tour

Adapted from the smash-hit novel, following on from the hugely successful film, The Girl On The Train feels as if it was written for the stage in this engrossing new production.

Following the story of Rachel Watson, a woman who has got out of a tricky marriage and is drinking herself into oblivion, her curiosity gets her involved in a dissapearance case. Still hung up on her ex-husband and fired from her job, she continues to make her daily commute to work for something to get her out of bed in the morning.

Fortunately, I’d read the book years ago, and it was only as the play progressed did parts of the story come back to me. It’s a superbly compelling play that has a slick pace and gripping tension. The play sticks firmly to the narrative of the book and the naturalism of the direction by Antony Banks gives the play a sharp resonance.

Samantha Womack is sublime as the protagonist Rachel. Mostly playing drunk, Womack captures the subtlety of the clever ways Rachel would hide her drinking and she captures the characters’ dry humour superbly. Rachel is a woman that goes on a whirlwind of emotions and Womack brings real authenticity to this with her completely commanding performance as she flips from intelligent and composed, to wildly frantic. She captures the balance of this well, which is impressive in such a complex role, as Womack’s performance enables you to really empathise with the character.

Samantha Womack in Girl on the Train. Photo - Manuel Harlan
Samantha Womack in Girl on the Train. Photo – Manuel Harlan

Womack’s portrayal of Rachel is fascinating. As Rachel grows an obsession with the ‘perfect’ couple she watches out of the window on her commute, when the woman she is spying on goes missing, she gets involved with the investigation. Making friends with the missing woman’s husband Scott (Oliver Farnworth), she becomes entangled in the case.

The woman really are the most absorbing characters, particularly Rachel’s ex husband’s new wife Anna, played by Lowenna Melrose. She’s a really interesting character as she attempts to be sympathetic but is finding it difficult with Rachel’s shadow constantly in her life. She is a new mother and is clearly struggling yet putting on a happy façade to get through day-to-day life, whilst her husband is making her feel guilty. 

Equally, although we don’t see as much as the missing woman Megan, Kirsty Oswald gives us a powerful insight into her life with her emotionally charged monologue. Appearing just as a shadow in most of the play, this is an encapsulating moment as she digs deep into her pain as she tells us of her past.

What makes The Girl On The Train such a success is the relevance of the story, as it covers themes such as mental health, abuse, betrayal, isolation and so much more, which is all through the eyes of a woman.

Enhancing the first-rate acting performances is James Cotterill’s stage design. I did wonder how a train could be recreated on stage but Cotterill manages to do it all. Going for a minimal yet effective design, the stage transforms from the train, to the sitting room of each house, to the therapist office remarkably. It’s a real visual feast for the eyes as the clever use of reflections paired with Jack Knowles’ lighting design transports the audience into the characters’ world.

The Girl On The Train is a captivating story told through high quality acting and innovative visuals. Samantha Womack’s performance is faultless as she brings real depth to the intriguing role of Rachel.

On at the Wolverhampton Grand until the 23 March, tickets and information can be found on their website.

Photo credit // Manuel Harlan

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