Theatre review - The Girl on the Train at The Lowry, Salford

PUBLISHED: 15:15 03 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:15 03 April 2019

Scott (Oliver Farnworth) and Rachel in The Girl on the Train

Scott (Oliver Farnworth) and Rachel in The Girl on the Train


A gripping tale that won’t disappoint, writes Kate Houghton

Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson in The Girl on the TrainSamantha Womack as Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train

If you’ve not heard before of The Girl on the Train you must have been living off-world. Paula Hawkins’ novel was an international phenomenon selling over twenty million copies worldwide, which was also made into a film starring Emily Blunt, grossing almost $100,000,000.

The storyline centres around Rachel Watson, a lonely drunk, obsessed with watching the house where she used to live with her husband, Tom, from the window of her train as it pauses at a signal stop each day. Her voyeurism also draws her to Tom’s neighbour, Megan, whose displays of affection towards her husband, Scott, captivate her. Rachel yearns for the life that she had before and lives in a state of anger, despair and bitterness as she grieves for all she has lost.

Rachel (Samantha Womack ) and Tom (Adam Jackson Smith) in The Girl on The Train
Credit: Manuel HarlanRachel (Samantha Womack ) and Tom (Adam Jackson Smith) in The Girl on The Train Credit: Manuel Harlan

One day, Tom comes knocking at her door, asking if she had witnessed anything on the previous Saturday evening, after turning up at his door and berating his new wife, in a drunken fury. It seems that neighbour Megan disappeared that night, and Tom’s new wife, Anna, told the police that Rachel had been in the area.

It’s a great story, from here on in. Rachel embeds herself in the investigation, somehow making the discoveries hidden from the police. She is caught out by her own lies on many an occasion, but through it all struggles to a new understanding of herself and the demons that drive her – one very real demon in particular.

Rachel is played in the stage version by Samantha Womack. It’s a huge role, she’s in every scene and has to balance portraying sad, drunk Rachel with determined, brave Rachel. On the whole, she achieves this, but I did feel that she had almost too much to work with in terms of script, yet too little in terms of character depth and direction. Rachel here is not easy to like and rather difficult to understand – which is quite unlike the novel, where her past and her present are revealed to build a whole woman, with whom you both sympathise and engage. Here that happens a little bit too piecemeal – blink and you’ll miss it.

Ex-husband Tom (played by Adam Jackson Smith) is immediately smarmy in this telling, whereas in the novel all your sympathies lie with him. Scott is possibly the best executed character, ranging from limp disbelief to violence in a blink. Overall however it’s as if the ‘what’ of the story was given precedence over the why and the whole thing is speeded up. Lots is said, but in thrillers of this type it’s what remains unsaid, but understood, that makes all the difference. I would have loved for more time to be given to what drives Rachel, why she’s a drunk, jobless and alone. As it is, we lose our opportunity to feel for her any real sympathy.

Having said this, I still enjoyed it greatly and if you’re a fan of the novel you won’t be disappointed. If you’ve not read it, then you definitely won’t be disappointed. The team behind this stage adaptation had a mammoth task on their hands and they’ve almost nailed it, just not quite.

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