Paula Hawkins’ international best seller is once again brought to life in the Anthony Banks directed stage play, pulling into the New Theatre this week. This time it’s Samantha Womack taking on the leading lady role, best known for her run in EastEnders and role in the Kingsman movies. Anyone who reads my reviews know that on paper this is right up my street; a mystery thriller with a bit of star power to boot… lovely jubbly! Read on to see if The Girl on the Train lived up to the hype.
While this play does continue the tradition of me seeing the adaptation of films I still need to get round to, I did think I had a rough idea of what to expect. That was completely blown out of the water when the curtains rose. This play has some pretty hefty source material to deal with and addresses modern day issues like loneliness, abuse and addiction. It does it in a way that looks and feels like an indie production, with simple sets and sound design, but with the weight and professionalism of a polished and experienced ensemble. This can be felt in the stage presence of the actors, none of which were alien to dealing with some of the heavier material. I feel like a lot of what I see in the theatre is bubbly and intended to bring out a few laughs and smiles. This show does all that but also pulls the audience down into darker depths with both design and tone.
The set design was very simplistic at times and yet very revealing. There was some impressive use of lighting throughout the show, to mimic the movements of a train or just to enhance the story, and to keep the audience up to speed with events. In many ways this reflected the nature of the story. On the surface it seemed so simple but there was so much more to be revealed as it when along. I particularly loved the authentic look of the three living spaces we see; especially the protagonist Rachel’s who’s really made the stage of the New Theatre look like a bit of a dump when it was in focus. Don’t worry though it all got cleared up in the scene changes.
It can’t go without mention that Samantha Womack was brilliant tonight. The shift of focus to bring her into the spotlight paid off, as she tied the whole show together to deliver a memorable and haunting performance. With a show of this nature, a strong lead is essential, and that’s exactly what we got. Honestly, it’s difficult to write about this one because every time you think you’ve got the answer, there’s another twist and you’re left in the dark again; I don’t want to give away any details that will ruin the surprises for you. Just promise me to go and see it!
Overall, I have to give this one 4 girls out of 5 trains. The design of the whole production was superb and every member of the cast performed with authenticity and experience. It just didn’t reach the top marks for me because I felt some of the story may have needed more fleshing out. But don’t let that stop you from seeing this darker performance than I think we’re used to at the New Theatre. We all need a stroll out of our comfort zone once in a while.
Words: Harvey Jones
It’s On rating 4/5 stars