Lucy and Mother Dearest take a Monday-night visit to Norwich Theatre Royal to see the Girl on the Train during it’s UK theatre tour
I must admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced by the concept of Girl on the Train on stage.
As a fan of Paula Hopkins’ novel of the same name, it took me months to get around to seeing the film starring Emily Blunt. I wasn’t exactly rushing out to get tickets. I just couldn’t get my head around how it would work. After all, the main premise of the book is about a woman on a train. That’s pretty difficult to recreate on stage.
However, when Norwich Theatre Royal offered tickets to see the show during its six-day run this July, I was sufficiently intrigued to accept.
And I’m glad I did; it works incredibly well.
Yes, the story has been adapted for the stage and yes, some elements have been altered, but Girl on the Train on stage is pretty true to the novel.
It’s a harrowing drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat for two hours, taking you on a suspense-driven rollercoaster. I’m not kidding when I say that the audience gasped with surprise on several occasions.
The cast of Girl on the Train
First up, let me mention the cast.
Samantha Womack’s (EastEnders, Game On) portrayal of the title character, Rachel Watson, was outstanding. Womack was on stage for the entire two-hour-long show (save for the 20-minute interval) and gave an emotional performance throughout. She’s must be absolutely exhausted by the end of the night.
Samantha Womack’s portrayal of the title character, Rachel Watson, was outstanding
Without giving too much of the story away, she convincingly plays an alcoholic coming to terms with her life. While there were a few laughs at her drunken antics, my overriding feeling towards her was pity. Her life is a mess. She spends most of the show isolated from other characters and even the audience isn’t sure it can trust her. At several points, I found myself willing her on, to get to the bottom of the mystery.
And every performance was similarly strong. Oliver Farnworth (Hollyoaks, Coronation Street) was convincingly confused about the disappearance of his wife, while Adam Jackson-Smith plays Rachel’s long-suffering ex-husband. Psychiatrist Kamal Abdic is portrayed by actor Naeem Hayat, who has one of the most difficult performances, IMHO. Owing to the way Girl on the Train is staged, most of his lines are delivered to the audience and he still manages to be convincing. He gives a fantastic performance.
And I know I shouldn’t have favourites, but I must confess that I had a soft spot for the detective, played by Matt Concannon. His wry sense of humour lightened the show at several points, releasing some of the dramatic tension.
Kirsty Oswald (Ripper Street) gives a haunting performance as Megan, but I really don’t want to say much more than that!
Setting the scenes
What really stood out for me and Mother Dearest was the staging.
The show is very expertly constructed, with multiple complex sets to depict both inside and outside spaces. With clever use of screens and lighting, the train scenes are cleverly depicted, while there has been real attention to detail paid to homes and living environments.
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There’s also a nice, cinematic aspect throughout. The days of the week are projected onto the set, so you get a sense of time passing. It really reminded me of watching a film.
The use of costumes is ingenious too, with one of the main character’s outfits subtly changing over the course of the show as we get to know more of their story. Again, I’m keen not to give too much away, so I’ll leave it at that!
All in all, it was a great show and one that I’d highly recommend seeing it – even if you’re dubious about the staging. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Tickets for Girl on the Train Theatre Tour were kindly supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal for the purposes of a review. To get your tickets, visit Norwich Theatre Royal online.
Main image credit: Helen Maybanks