The Girl on the Train Review

The Lowry, Salford Quays – until Saturday 6th April 2019

Reviewed by Julie Noller


The Girl on the Train has pulled to a stop in Salford Quays as part of it’s UK wide tour and it’s definitely a catch it if you can play for you will not be disappointed.

I had previously read Paula Hawkins bestseller back in 2015 after it had been recommended as part of another phenomenon that is Richard and Judy’s Book Club. It was a book of second guesses, suspense, isolation and rebirth in an era of mental health awareness. Directed by Anthony Banks and adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, it is edge of the seat theatre with superb polished acting. It more than does justice to a wonderful novel. The sets are simple but effective, from the fast changes of drab alcoholic Rachel’s flat to the nice houses of suburbia. All mixed in with high speed train journeys, we’ve all been on a train; gazing out of the window into the yonder, daydreaming. Whizzing past houses and lives we know nothing about but somehow day in day out they merge in with own existence. I took my teenage daughter and she loved it gasping at times, she didn’t know what to expect. I purposefully hadn’t explained the story line, we spent the interval discussing the plot and what may have actually happened. It’s fair to say there are lots of different curve balls and conclusions to keep you guessing until the stories end.

The story is a brilliantly dark one, it is a warts and all tale of a young woman’s sadness, how her life has spiralled out of control. It’s her fight against self loathing, hatred of those things and finally like a phoenix she rises from the ashes. Infatuated with a young couple she watches from her daily commute to nowhere, she longs to be in their perfect life; they just so happen to live next door to her ex-husband, but not everything is as rosy as that fantasy life.

Samantha Womack is simply divine as Rachel Watson, she seamlessly without us noticing transitions from sad pathetic alcoholic, meekly moving as D.I. Gaskill states from being a Waitrose alcoholic to a paper bag one, touching on his own demons; Rachel is slurring, being sick in an old pizza box, her self care is non existent hence the same clothes daily, living only for that train journey and her next drink, suffering blackouts and a patchy memory. It’s apparent that she is a highly intelligent woman but lonely, without friends. Who could blame her for living life in a fantasy world with the perfect Jess and Jason. Jess is actually Megan seen on stage in flashbacks with Kirsty Oswald in the part. The thing you notice about Megan is possibly more to do with Rachel’s state of mind. Her dress is a light bright orange summer one, and it slowly changes almost unnoticed at first to eventually change to black, perhaps because she loses her life or perhaps as a nod to her own state of mind and depression; can any of us actually understand how the person next to us is thinking or feeling?

Oliver Farnworth is poor confused Scott Hipwell, Megan’s husband, he is immediately under suspicion has us guessing what he has done to his missing wife. John Dougall is D.I. Gaskill, a police officer with the human touch, a man who appears to raise suspicion on everyone, somewhat pities Rachel and yet holds her woman’s intuition in high opinion, somehow everyone is happy to talk to the drunk as if she isn’t a threat. Adam Jackson-Smith is Tom Watson a man who at first is understanding of his ex wife and her need in him, the late night phone calls, he checks on her almost too many times. Then when she begins to pull away from him and begins to establish friendships in unusual places with different men from Scott to Kamal Abdic (Naeem Hayat) the psychiatrist who has his own demons.

It starts to clear for the audience there are control issues at play. The big difference from the book is how the humour shines throughout in a very British manner. It eases the tension allows us to catch our breath and relax before changing track again and like a train journey you don’t actually know which platform you end up standing on. All the actors bring their characters sense of need brilliantly to life, you would think even the most self assured would trundle along easily; however it brings us to the conclusion that it is quite often the opposite. A little bit of self belief is all it takes to help yourself as in Rachel’s case she finds a purpose in life, she chases away her demons and finally in those moments of clarity during her blackouts. She finds a way through her very own black hole. Rachel is a little bit of us all, amateur detective, getting it wrong on her journey to self discovery.