Review: The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train is a well-known entity, based originally on a book by Paula Hawkins and following its success was made into a film starring Emily Blunt. The play has been adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel. It is a psychological thriller about Rachel Watson who watches a couple from her train window- she creates a fantasy life for these individuals and then one day the woman goes missing. Rachel ends up inserting herself into the investigation and becomes both suspect and detective. It deals with themes of grief, abuse, and addiction. The story Hawkins has created is brilliant, it keeps you gripped right from the beginning.
However, I am not sure how well it transferred to the stage. It asks a lot of its performers to time and time again build to the emotions required for this play. I’m not sure that the actors could live up to this, at times I really didn’t believe the emotions or the performances. It’s a shame and perhaps this is something that is easier for actors cinematically. However, the standout performance was from Jason Merrells as D.I. Gaskill. He was naturally very funny and was the safety character amongst a group of potential murderers. I also can’t not mention Joanna van Kampen who played Rachel Watson and was onstage almost the entire time having to deliver a very emotionally charged performance. I also really enjoyed Samuel Collings as Scott, the missing woman’s husband.
The staging by Adam Wiltshire was very successful as it allowed for the obvious difficulty of trying to put a train on stage. Ultimately from the beginning, it told us that the set was not meant to be naturalistic and instead it played into the thriller nature of the production as they were able to use the fabric hanging from the flies to hide characters and reveal them. The cyclorama also allowed for projections including various news headlines. There was a strong design presence throughout the production with the high contrast lighting and sound as well to constantly remind you of the thriller genre.
My other major bugbear with this production was some of the directing decisions. At times some of the decisions felt a little bit cringey. For example, the moment where the characters built up by repeating lines and then Rachel Watson started spinning in a square and felt a little like she was in a Fun House. I almost would have liked them to push the stylistic decisions further if they were going to go down that road, instead stopping on the edge made it feel a little basic.
Overall, an enjoyable afternoon spent at the theatre. Luckily the source material is just so strong that the story carries itself. I can’t help but feel this worked better cinematically than on a live stage though.
- Show title: The Girl on the Train
- Venue: Salisbury Playhouse, Wiltshire Creative
- Review date: Thursday 2nd November