Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Able’s stage adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ hugely successful novel The Girl on the Train has been given a revamp in this new production, following its tour and West End debut in 2019.
Directed by Joseph Hodges, the story focuses on Rachel Watson (Katie Ray), a struggling alcoholic that has lost her job and her husband Tom (Tom Gordon) who has moved on with his new partner Anna (Tori Hargreaves) and their baby. Rachel travels on the train to London every day, as it stops, she has a perfect view of the house where she lived with her ex-husband as well as the couple two doors down. As Rachel watches neighbours Megan (Chrystine Symone) and Scott (Scott Hipwell), she enviously imagines what life could be like for this couple she doesn’t know. When Megan suddenly goes missing, Rachel unexpectedly has the chance to become part of their lives for real.
Richard Cooper’s set is minimal, a black stage with a few mirrors and white furniture, the reflective surfaces were effective in symbolising Rachel’s growing suspicions and uncertainty with her memories and worked well with Seb Blaber’s lighting. The dramatic lights set really set the tone, especially during the all-important train scenes which is a difficult setting to emulate on stage. The choice of flickering lights, Sam Glossop’s train sound effects and the characters miming their journeys broke up some of the action nicely.
Katie Ray shined as lead Rachel, giving a truly memorable performance. Ray embodied the complexities of Rachel’s character perfectly, from her inner turmoil, shown in her desperate voicemails to her ex-husband, to her growing confidence in herself as she begins to fill the “black holes” in her memories and discovers the truth. Despite her unravelling, we see Rachel develop before our eyes and Ray truly commands the stage with her multi-faceted portrayal. Despite Rachel being such a tragic character, Ray adds a touch of humour to her performance too which was well-received, making her character more relatable.
Cavin Cornwall as D.I. Gaskill, whom Rachel forms a sort of partnership with during her investigation into Megan’s disappearance, provides some light-hearted moments throughout. Cornwall’s comedic timing is excellent as he delivers plenty of stellar one-liners and has a great rapport with Ray.
Tom Gordon as Rachel’s ex-husband Tom was also a highlight of the show. Gordon was convincing as the charming husband and master manipulator. Although his ending may not come as much of a surprise, it was interesting seeing his character develop and become more layered as the story unfolds.
Chrystine Symone as the mysterious Megan was enjoyable in the second act as her character becomes more prominent. Symone’s scenes with therapist Kamal Abdic played by Kirk Smith as she recounts her trauma were particularly gripping. Although Symone doesn’t have as much dialogue as some of the other actors, she does a great job of setting the tone in every scene she’s in.
Adapting a bestselling book for the stage is never easy, yet Wagstaff and Able make it work in this production. The minimal set, lighting and sound allowed the audience to fully immerse themselves in the characters, which worked for such a complex storyline and made it a thrilling watch. The Girl on the Train is currently showing at Upstairs at The Gatehouse until 3rd July. You can purchase tickets here: https://upstairsatthegatehouse.ticketsolve.com/shows/1173621707/events/428457419
Reviewer: Gemma Prince
Reviewed: 9th June 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★