Adapted from Paula Hawkins’ novel, Rachel Wagstaff & Duncan Abel’s stage adaptation of Adapted from Paula Hawkins’ novel, Rachel Wagstaff & Duncan Abel’s stage adaptation of The Girl on The Train steamed into Cardiff’s New Theatre on Tuesday evening.
Gripping the audience for over two hours, The Girl on The Train tells the story of Rachel Watson, a young woman struggling with a drink problem after a broken marriage. Rachel’s life is a mess, her only escape is a seemingly perfect couple she glimpses through the train window every day, happy and in love. Or so it would appear. Rachel learns from her ex-husband Tom that the woman she’s been secretly watching has suddenly vanished. Rachel not only finds herself a witness to the disappearance of the woman but also under suspicion. Rachel subsequently tries to piece together the clues that led to the girl’s eventual disappearance as well as fathom her own involvement which appears to be buried away in her own cloudy memory.
If audience’s previous introduction to this thriller was the American film version, they will immediately notice that the story has shifted locations from the United States to an unnamed place, commutable distance from London. The set shifts around several locations, a train in motion, Rachel’s run-down flat to a police station and several characters apartments. This is frequently aided by meticulous lighting that spotlights Rachel’s character as she moves from one scenario to the next.
The clever trick with this presentation is how each character is pulled into the past with distorted memories and imagery, particularly in the case of Megan, who although missing, reappears at regular intervals via Rachel’s memory through a train window or as the characters begin discussing their associations with her. Rachel’s memories continue to distort and confuse, particularly after looking at one of Megan’s paintings at her home which is a confused collection of circles with a hole placed in the middle. On returning to her flat in a drunken state, Rachel appears to recreate this image with her hand gestures on the kitchen wall before passing out. A cleverly performed and presented piece of theatre.
Of course, another strong aspect of The Girl on The Train is the incredible performances from a stellar cast.
Samantha Womack gives a mesmerising performance of Rachel, a young woman struggling to find her way through the blurry confusion of her memories. The role demands a gamut of emotion including anger, frustration and bravery, all which Miss Womack brings to the fore as well as giving inspiration as to how her character overcomes problems in the face of adversity.
Kirsty Oswald has the role of bringing the missing Megan to life. Miss Oswald brings presence and performance as Megan weaves in and out people’s recollections and Rachel’s observations, from echoing neatly choreographed movements of other characters to taking more shape as conversations with her husband and psychiatrist are brought to life.
There is strong support from Oliver Farnworth as Scott Hipwell, the husband of missing Megan, Adam Jackson-Smith as Rachel’s supportive ex-husband Tom, Naeem Hayat as psychiatrist, Kamal Abdic (his duologues with Womack’s Rachel are intensely brilliant pieces of theatre), John Dougall as the patient but thorough DI Gaskell and Lowenna Melrose as Tom’s wife, Anna whose story comes more to light as the play progresses.
A contemporary thriller featuring ground-breaking effects and a memorable cast. The Girl on the Train continues at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Saturday November 16.