By Elly Savva
At heart, it may be a classic murder mystery story arc, but what really entices the audience into this particular story is the venture it allows you into the messiest parts of peoples’ lives. From just the 12th to the 16th of November, The Girl on the Train is stopping at the New Theatre in Cardiff. Under the direction of Anthony Banks, the story has been brought to the stage for the first time.
When Paula Hawkins’ psychological thriller was first published in 2015 it became an overnight sensation, propelling the author into the limelight after selling over twenty million copies. Whilst the film set the tale in New York, the stage adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel brings it back to the grittiest sides of the UK. Instead of sipping dirty martinis, the protagonist is back to guzzling wine straight from the bottle and puking into pizza boxes. Once again, you’re staring out of the moving train window at rows of terraced Victorian houses and red brick semis rather than white picket fenced suburban houses.
Unlike the deadpan nature of the film, this portrayal brings in a very British sense of humour as the characters laugh in the face of bleak moments and absurdity. The lead role of Rachel Watson is performed by Samantha Womack, best known for her time on EastEnders as Ronnie Mitchell. In interviews, Womack confessed that whilst playing Rachel was a hugely satisfying experience, it was also completely exhausting. Whilst giving her the chance to release her inhibitions and appear without any make-up, devoid of all feminine constraints, the character is pushed to the edge of humanity. On stage, Womack slurs and stumbles her way through the first half – until she moves towards clarity following the interval as she reaches sobriety. Womack is supported on stage by John Dougall as D.I Gaskill, a brusque detective who happens to be gay, alongside Oliver Farnworth as Scott, Kirsty Oswald as Megan and Adam Jackson Smith as Tom. None of the characters is particularly likeable, as they are all hugely damaged and flawed – aspects that are well represented by the actors in the show.
The set takes you to a multitude of different places, rotating from the despairs of Rachel’s solitary chaotic bedsit to the immaculate backdrop of a contemporary marbled kitchen (complete with island countertop). Composed by James Cotterill, the design mirrors the story’s exposition of the darkness lurking behind the ‘perfect image’. At a time when social media portrayals dominate our perceptions of human lives, this tale serves as a reminder of the murkiness that we keep hidden beneath. If you’re tempted by a trip into the depths of addiction, manipulation, murder, and secrets, The Girl on the Train is certainly one to watch.