Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Girl on the Train - a great adaptation and superb set mechanics deliver a modern theatrical whodunit (Grand Opera House until 15 June)

While many in the Grand Opera House audience seemed familiar with either the original novel or the film adaptation, for those of us who were coming fresh to Paula Hawkins’ plot of The Girl on the Train, we found a fabulous piece of modern whodunit theatre.

The premise is that Rachel, an alcoholic woman with an unreliable and incomplete memory, discovers that someone she has regularly seen – out of her commuter train window while it’s been stopped at points – has gone missing. The house was only a couple of doors away from where her ex-husband still lives, and in parallel with the police investigation, Rachel inveigles herself into conversations with key witnesses and associates of the missing woman.

She’s like a modern-day Miss Marple feeding the local police detective with information he couldn’t normally be expected to uncover through his traditional methods, all the while making herself look more and more like the chief suspect as she weaves an ever larger and more complicated web of deceit.

Jack Knowles’ lighting is precise and Andrzej Goudling’s projections subtly animate the dark space and create an impressive representation of a moving railway carriage. The train theme is kept running with some of the James Cotterill’s detailed sets moving onto the stage as if on rails. Scenes flick between locations with a speed and lack of fuss that many other productions could learn from: it’s often as fast as turning a page. Kirsty Oswald appears on stage as the missing woman in flashbacks, with an elegant costume which slowly fades to black as we speed towards her character’s dark end.

Samantha Womack is convincing in her role as the subdued and through-other titular character. As Rachel reduces her alcohol intake, Womack becomes noticeably less clumsy and more stable. John Dougall triggers much levity with his dry wit as DI Gaskill. Naeem Hayat (the therapist), Adam Jackson-Smith (Rachel’s ex-husband) and Oliver Farnworth (the missing woman’s boyfriend) bring a hint of menace and uncertainty to their less-than-perfect characters.

Superb set mechanics and lighting add to the air of mystery and keep the plot speeding down the tracks in this modern theatrical thriller. If you haven’t read the book or watched the film, The Girl on the Train is still an attractive and enjoyable drama that will keep your brain second guessing all the way through to the reveal near the end.

Just make sure you silence your phone if you do attend. This evening’s first half was interrupted by the Top Gun theme music erupting in the front circle while after the interval another phone interrupted a crucial scene (the actor froze and waited very patiently).

The Girl on the Train continues in the Grand Opera House until Saturday 15 June.

Production shots: Manuel Harlan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We left at the interval as the sound was appalling!