I'd read (and loved) the book, watched (and kinda liked) the movie, so waited with baited breath to find out if the stage play would make the cut. Adapting a novel for theatre is no easy task; even less so when it's already made it to cinema screens. The imaginary world we create mid novel rarely translates 100%, but in this case, the cast often came close. I saw the performance in the opulent setting of Belfast's Grand Opera House, as part of an ongoing UK wide tour.
The Girl on the Train is based on Paula Hawkins' hugely successful psychological thriller, which sold 20 million copies worldwide. It follows the life of Rachel, who seeks escapism from her permanently pickled life through a train window, on her daily commute to an imaginary workplace. Following the breakdown of her marriage and loss of her job, she becomes obsessed with relationships between couples in the houses she passes on her journey, including that of her ex husband with his new wife and baby. Tensions heighten when one of the characters go missing and Rachel finds herself both a witness and suspect in the investigation.
The story dips through characters and times as each person's stories are interwoven seamlessly. Adrenalin rises in the second half of the play, as Rachel releases her grip on a vodka-filled water bottle and gradually begins to trust snippets of her drunken memories on the night that Megan vanished.
Rachel is played by Samantha Womack, best known for her role as Ronnie Mitchell in Eastenders, who commands the stage in every scene and is relentless in her performance. Adam Jackson-Smith is Megan's husband - the patronising and creepy Tom, while volatile Scott is portrayed by Coronation Street's Oliver Farnworth.
I appreciated how the play remained more true to the novel than the movie, where multiple changes included switching locations from London to New York. The staging is simple yet incredibly atmospheric, in keeping with the relentless twists and turns in the story. Impressive levels of realism are created through the props, well set scenery and clever flickering lighting, including effective representation of the moving train.
The play most definitely surpassed the Dreamworks film in my opinion, but the book was a No1 bestseller for a reason and I'd encourage any thriller lovers to start there.
The Girl on the Train is adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel and is directed by Anthony Banks with set and costumes by James Cotterill, lighting by Jack Knowles, sound by Ben and Max Ringham, projection design by Andrzej Goulding and fights by Alison de Burgh.
The play ran in the Grand Opera House in Belfast this month, but continues to tour the UK. For information, click on: https://www.girlonthetrainplay.com/