Theatre Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN – The Lowry, Salford

Adam Jackson Smith and Samantha Womack in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Adam Jackson Smith and Samantha Womack in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Despite its slow start, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN successfully transfers from page to stage thanks to a powerful and convincing performance from Samantha Womack

3.5 out of 5 stars

When British author Paula Hawkins released her debut novel THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN back in 2015 it took the world by storm, selling an estimated 20 million copies worldwide and resulting in a major film starring Emily Blunt. Four years later, the psychological thriller has now been adapted for the stage with EASTENDERS’ Samantha Womack in the lead role.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN tells the story of alcoholic Rachel Watson who travels on the train every day past her old house, partly to reminisce about her former life married to Tom and partly to fantasize about a couple who live a few doors down and who seem to have a perfect life. When Rachel learns that the woman she’s been secretly watching has suddenly disappeared, she finds herself as a witness and even a suspect in a thrilling mystery in which she will face bigger revelations than she could ever have anticipated.

Oliver Farnworth and Samantha Womack in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Oliver Farnworth and Samantha Womack in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Those who have read Hawkins novel will no doubt be left wondering how the creative team behind THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN have managed to transfer this fast-paced story onto the stage. Hawkins’ chapters are short, fast-moving and often involve flashbacks, not to mention the sections on a fast-moving train. Thankfully, James Cotterill’s rolling set successfully helps to keep the action flowing, with Director Anthony Banks making good use of Andrzej Goulding’s projection, along with Ben and Max Ringham’s sound design and Jack Knowles’ lighting. Even the train scenes, while minimal, are effective.

In terms of the cast, Samantha Womack delivers a powerful and convincing performance as lonely, alcoholic ex-wife Rachel Watson. Looking tired and dishevelled, she is barely leaving the stage all evening and the intensity of her characterisation means that we feel her every emotion. Elsewhere, Adam Jackson-Smith is strong as Rachel’s estranged husband Tom while CORONATION STREET’s Oliver Farnworth is convincing as Megan’s husband Scott Hipwell. John Dougall also stands out for his performance as DI Gaskill, his character and humour offering some light relief in this otherwise intense story.

Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson in THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

This is, however, a play that demands your full attention, particularly during the first half which sees on-stage flashbacks merge with present-day interactions. Without giving too much away, the manipulation of events and characters is also far too subtly conveyed here so when the truth is finally revealed, it comes somewhat as a rushed surprise.

That said, there are plenty of twists and turns to make this a genuine thriller and despite its slow start, it does a decent job of keeping the tension high, particularly during the second act.

If you’re a fan of Hawkins’ novel – or indeed the 2016 film – you’re sure to enjoy THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. A good old-fashioned ‘whodunnit’ with a contemporary modern twist.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN runs at The Lowry, Salford until 6 April 2019