The Girl on the Train at the Royal & Derngate Northampton Review

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Reviewed by Janine Rumble

The Girl on the Train is based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins and has been adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel and directed by Anthony Banks. It is a psychological thriller about a divorced, alcoholic woman who, on her daily commute, spies on the ‘perfect lives’ of a married couple through her train window. Then one day the woman, Megan Hipwell (played by Kirsty Oswald) disappears and Rachel Watson (played by Samantha Womack) becomes embroiled in the mystery over the woman’s disappearance.

The play begins with Rachel, looking longingly at the married couple, through the train window. We later see her looking at another house in the same street, which we come to discover is her former home, now lived in by her ex-husband Tom Watson (played by Adam Jackson-Smith) and his new wife Anna Watson (played by Lowenna Melrose) and their baby Evie. Rachel is down on her luck, unemployed, a rambling alcoholic prone to blackouts and living in a hovel. Seeing this perfect couple each day, brings the pain home at her own failed marriage and crumbling life, the pain is visible for all to see and is portrayed so well by Samantha Womack, who rambles, stumbles and slurs her way through the first half of the play. She becomes obsessed with the missing woman, once her ex-husband explains that the woman went missing on the day and near to where she had an argument with his new wife and that the police had been informed. Knowing that she experiences blackouts, he advises her to think carefully about what happened when she left his house, especially as she has an unexplained cut on her forehead.

Thus, ensues a tense series of tense exchanges between Rachel and D.I. Gaskell (played by John Dougall) as her involvement and obsession in the case causes her to become a suspect. Although he provided some much-needed light relief throughout the play. Rachel cunningly infiltrates the missing woman’s house, on the pretence of being her friend and becomes friendly with her husband Scott Hipwell (played by Oliver Farnworth) and delves into their seemingly perfect lives, which become more and more complicated as the play proceeds. Rachel also manages to extract private details about Megan’s life from her therapist, Kamal Abdic (played by Naeem Hayat), upon realising he was the man she saw kissing Megan, the day before her disappearance.

The first half of the play sets the background to the story through cleverly used flashbacks, which means you must concentrate to be able to follow the story. The second half of the play sees Rachel becoming sober and taking control of her life, whilst getting deeper and deeper embroiled in the case of the missing woman, who is found murdered.

I was so engrossed in what I was watching that I did not figure out ‘whodunnit’ and was shocked when the murderer was revealed.

Samantha Womack ably narrated the story throughout, you could feel her pain, confusion and clearing mind as she changed throughout the play. She was a woman still coming to terms with her husband’s betrayal and his moving on with his new life and his new wife and child.

Adam Jackson-Smith played the ex-husband well, showing compassion to his ex-wife and contempt at other times towards her, with Lowenna Melrose, playing his trusting wife, having to deal with the intrusion her husband’s ex-wife has on their otherwise stable lives. Oliver Farnworth was great as the husband of the missing woman, filled with confusion and pain as we discovered the true extent of his wife’s past life, through her therapy sessions and through the police’s discoveries. Kirsty Oswald as the missing woman was amazing, such a talented actress. As her past life was revealed through a series of monologues, you could feel every ounce of pain and emotion that she portrayed.

The end, when it came was told in a series of brutal flashbacks and a shocking reveal as to ‘whodunnit’.

I enjoyed the play, having never read the book or seen the film, I had no preconceptions. However, my friend who came to see it with me and had read the book and watched the film, said it was not as good as she was hoping it would be. But that it was very hard to portray some parts on stage. I found it hard to connect with the characters on a personal level and at times thought that the tension wasn’t built up enough, especially in the more psychological scenes, they seemed to be over before they began.

I was interested to see how they would show the train. The train scenes were very cleverly done with lighting and clips of people or scenery. The sets were very simple. Rachel’s flat was small, dark and filthy and was lit to reflect the darkness that her life was in. Her ex-husband’s house and Hipwell’s house on the other hand, were bright, spacious and well lit. The backdrop was always dark and the lighting reflected the mood of the play throughout.

If you like classic ‘whodunnits’, then take some time to go and see this play.

Rating: 3/5

Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).

The Girl on the Train is at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 22-27 April 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk or call the box office on 01604 624811.

Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811

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