Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
10:02 AM 11th September 2019

The Girl On The Train - Safely On The Right Track

Adapted from the best-selling Paula Hawkins thriller of the same name published in 2015, the story centres on Rachel Watson, a 32 year old alcoholic who is still suffering after her marriage to Tom hit the buffers.

Tom is now married to Anna and they have a daughter, Evie. Rachel’s daily train commute passes by her old house where Tom and Anna now live. She also takes an interest in a couple who live a few doors away from Tom and Anna and the play develops to a climax around her observations – all of which are confused by her bouts of drunkenness’ and blackouts.

The play is much closer to the book than the 2016 film but it really doesn’t matter if you’ve read or seen neither as you are quickly taken into the confused mind of Rachel and as she says ‘her memory is like a jigsaw bought from a jumble sale, with missing pieces and pieces from another puzzle all mixed in together’.

The production is dark both figuratively in its content and literally in the way the scenes are set, in small illuminated pockets of a dark stage. The use of lighting, music and sound effects create a tension which runs throughout the play complementing the all-important dialogue.

Full marks must go to the Director, Anthony Banks, who has been ably assisted by James Cotterill (Set and Costumes) and Ben and Max Ringham (Composition and Sound).

Opening night saw a virtually full house. The burning question of how to portray a train on a stage was answered as soon as you entered the theatre. But as the play begins the train was quickly shunted into the sidings as the characters came to life.

Samantha Womack (Ronnie Mitchell from Eastenders) takes the part of Rachel and gave an excellent performance which is just as well as the play revolves around her character who is on stage from start to finish.

She has strong support from the rest of the cast especially Oliver Farnworth (Andy Carver - Coronation Street) who plays Scott, the husband of the missing woman and John Dougall as DI Gaskell, the detective leading the investigation into the missing Megan whilst trying to make sense of Rachel’s confused recollections.

The play is heavy on dialogue much of it one to one with very little ‘action’ but despite this each scene moves the story along and the scene changes, of which there are many, were fast and slick.

The audience were quick to enthusiastically applaud at the interval which augured well for the second half.

During my interval musings I found myself considering the sparseness of the production along with the heavy dialogue and thinking: ‘I shouldn’t really be enjoying this, but I am’ and I was eager for the second half to take me further into Rachel’s confusion.

The performance touches on themes of alcoholism, domestic abuse, infidelity, infanticide, coercion and depression but still manages to supply the audience with a few spontaneous laughs that jolt you into thinking “Should I have laughed at that?”

True to form, the second Act begins with an intimidating scene, set in an ill lit underpass with police tape and a crime tent. The story continues to develop as Rachel, now alcohol free and mainly sober, gradually begins to make sense of the disturbing images and memories that are slowly surfacing in her mind. With plot twists throwing suspicion from character to character the final scene brings everything to an unexpected but satisfactory conclusion.

If you’ve an evening spare this week, well worth a visit.

The Girl on the Train
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford until Saturday 4th September 2019
(Matinee Friday and Saturday)