The Girl on the Train – Review – Sheffield Lyceum
By Sarah Morgan, June 2019
A few weeks ago, Channel 4 broadcast the terrestrial TV premiere of the movie version of The Girl on the Train, an Americanised adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel. Now, thanks to this touring theatrical version, there’s a chance to see the tale in its original British setting.
The story focuses on Rachel Watson, an alcoholic divorcee who still travels into London everyday as if commuting to work – despite having lost her job six months previously thanks to her drinking problem.
She’s mourning the loss of her marriage to Tom, who has since tied the knot with Anna; they have a baby, something Rachel had longed for. Tom is still very much a part of Rachel’s life and her daily ‘commute’ even takes her past their former marital home.
When Megan Hipwell, one of Tom and Anna’s neighbours, goes missing one night, Rachel begins to suspect she knows something about what happened, but as she suffers from booze-induced blackouts, she can’t be sure what, if anything, she has witnessed.
The plot charts her efforts to piece together fragments of memory as they return to her, bringing her into contact with a variety of suspects, such as Megan’s husband Scott, her therapist Kamal and others.
Emily Blunt played Rachel in the film, a role taken on stage by Samantha Womack, who is clearly trying to put her years in EastEnders behind her. However, you can’t help but feel that the emotional scenes – including plenty of tears and shouting – she did while a Walford resident will have come in handy here.
She’s joined in the cast by fellow soap veteran Oliver Farnworth, aka Coronation Street’s Andy Carver, as Scott. Both actors deliver decent performances, although the play itself feels somewhat gimmicky, perhaps relying a little too much on flashy staging – something that backfired somewhat when the start of the first night in Sheffield was slightly delayed due to technical difficulties.
Perhaps director Anthony Banks needs to shoulder some of the blame for any misfiring aspects of the production. Yes, there are clever elements to it (the depiction of the train works well, for instance), but having chairs lowered from the ceiling and the number of set changes in the latter stages feels a little over-indulgent, confusing and rushed.
Nevertheless, even if you’re a fan of the book and have seen the film, this is different enough to feel like a completely fresh take on a modern classic of the thriller genre.
images: Manual Harlan