From her hair to her clothes, to her ratty looking apartment, Rachel Watson is so down on her luck she’s about a bottle of vodka away from being down and out. Too many poor decisions following her divorce have seen Rachel spiral into a tail spin. Like turning up at her ex’s, Tom, and having a go at his new wife, Anna. Which, once again, thanks to the alcohol, she can’t remember anything about. This time her memory loss could be a problem though, given that Tom’s neighbour, Megan Hipswell, disappeared in the vicinity Rachel was seen in that same night. A woman Rachel knows more than a little about, if only she could remember. In Simon Friend’s, Amblin Partners and Josh Andrews’ presentation of "The Girl on the Train,” adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel from the best selling novel by Paula Hawkins and the Dreamworks film of the same name, one woman’s efforts to solve a mystery conceals a deeper need to save herself. Beautifully conveyed in this noir-style thriller whose whodunnit hijinks contains some hidden depths, exploring, as it does, issues of motherhood and domestic abuse.
Under director Anthony Banks, "The Girl on the Train" marries the bells and whistles of a big touring spectacle with the intimacy of a black box production. A scope and scale reflected in James Cotterill’s superb set, its spilt second, constant changes being perfectly executed. Wonderfully juxtaposed with Jack Knowles' noir-ish lighting, lending breadth and depth to the predominately black playing area, playing with colour, shadow, and flashing images to suggest Rachel’s internal as well as her external landscape. If Ben and Max Ringham’s composition adds a cinematic tinge in places, the poor quality of phone messages and intercom means the sound design doesn’t always land as sharply. Yet all in all Bank’s creatives craft a dark universe that offers a subtle assault on the senses.
A universe in which Rachel is unquestionably its gravitational centre; Hawkin’s alcoholic anti-hero made compelling by a hugely impressive Samantha Womack. Those familiar with Emily Blunt’s nervously edgy Rachel will find Womack has made Rachel her own. A Rachel whose mind might be dimmed, but is never dulled. Who's steeped in a jaded weariness, walking a tightrope between self-pity and self-loathing. Indeed, Womack, as well the rest of the cast, play far better when understated and restrained, with Banks eliciting far more power when he avoids sweeping, histrionic, broad strokes of which there are a few. Throughout, Womack, almost ever present on stage, crackles with chemistry with the rest of the ensemble. Particularly an impassioned Oliver Farnworth as Megan’s husband Scott, and John Douglas as the tenacious D.I. Gaskill. Naeem Hayat as an oversharing psychologist, Kamal, and a superb Lowenna Melrose as Tom’s new wife, Anna, also enjoy a strong chemistry with Womack. Only Adam Jackson Smith as Rachel’s ex, Tom, doesn’t seem to enjoy it to quite the same level, perhaps because ex’s rarely do. Kirsty Oswald as the sphinx-like Megan, full of mysteries and secrets, which Cotterill’s subtly changing costume toys with brilliantly, does marvellously well given her limited, often silent stage time.
"The Girl on the Train" does an exceedingly good job of putting a top notch thriller onto the stage and making it compelling. Not always an easy thing to do. As an ensemble piece, with Bank's creative team being equally as important as his strong cast, "The Girl on the Train" ensures all its moving parts work together to perfection. Yet Womack is undoubtedly the centre around which all else revolves, commanding the stage from beginning to end with an assured authority. Ensuring "The Girl on the Train" delivers a great night’s entertainment.
"The Girl on the Train" adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel from the best selling novel by Paula Hawkins and the Dreamworks film, presented by Simon Friend, Amblin Partners and Josh Andrews, runs at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until June 8.
For more information, visit Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.