Samantha Womack as Rachel in The Girl on the Train / Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
Samantha Womack as Rachel in The Girl on the Train / Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

When Paula Hawkins' best-selling novel The Girl on the Train was turned into a movie, it was a little disappointing to see the story uprooted and moved to America. So, when I heard that the book was being adapted for the stage by director Anthony Banks and would be staying true to its origins, I couldn't have been more excited.

Samantha Womack steps into the lead role of Rachel Watson; a drunk who's out of work and stumbling her way through life following a failed relationship. Despite losing her job six months prior to the events we see take place on stage, Rachel still takes the train to London to quench her unhealthy obsession with a couple she watches from her train window. To her, they're the image of perfection; everything she could have had in her old life.

The former EastEnders star is a true professional in this role. There's not a single scene she isn't a part of, but she delivers each and every one of her lines with flair, never showing a sign of real-life fatigue. When she needs to be delicate and vulnerable, she's exactly that; when there's a chance to get the audience laughing, she jumps on it with ease.

Instead of forcing herself to move on from her former lover Tom (Adam Jackson-Smith) and his new partner Anna (Lowenna Melrose), Rachel finds herself still attached to his life and that of his first-born child. Her own upset at never being able to conceive with Tom overarches her narrative, meaning she can't ever take a step towards building a new life and making a good go of things.

When one half of the couple she's been watching (and has even given her own names to) disappears in mysterious circumstances however, Rachel forces herself to be a part of the investigation; or so everybody around her assumes. This proves to be the driving force she needs to occupy her mind with something else entirely, though she may not always be acting with the best of intentions.

Oliver Farnworth and Samantha Womack as Scott and Rachel in The Girl on the Train / Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
Oliver Farnworth and Samantha Womack as Scott and Rachel in The Girl on the Train / Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

The pair she spies on from the train window - Megan (Kirsty Oswald) and Scott (Oliver Farnworth) - looked to have it all, but on her last sighting of Megan, she saw a new man locking lips with the beauty. Memories from the night on which Megan went missing come to her in waves - she knows immediately she was at an underpass, for example - but there's a constant black hole in her recollection.

This means that Detective Inspector Gaskell (played brilliantly by the charismatic John Dougall) cannot rely solely on what she tells him, but with so many other people banging to the beat of their own drum, and potentially hiding their own secrets, he's forced to follow-up on any scrap of information that comes his way.

Rachel's obsession pushes her to embedding herself within Scott's life. There's an instant connection between the pair, despite the chaos going on around them both and their consistent conflicts and arguments. Farnworth does well to match Womack's steely grip on the audience, with the pair ensuring the attention of everybody watching never wanes.

The incredible plot does the same, with twists that still leave the masses in awe whether or not they read the original novel.

This is a play that will remind you why you fell in love with the theatre. There are real moments where you could hear a pin drop because of the tension and suspense being ramped up by the incredible ensemble cast. The set is simple, but intricately designed. Pieces come in and out of view seamlessly, and the train itself is so wonderfully brought to life. If you're a fan of mystery and drama, then you must make an effort to go and see this show.

The Girl on the Train runs at The Lowry Theatre Manchester until Saturday, April 6, 2019.

by for
find me on and follow me on