The hit book The Girl On The Train has been haphazardly adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel.
The story follows Rachel Watson as she gets caught up in a murder inquiry of a missing woman. The missing woman is Megan Hipwell, the woman Rachel watches from the train every day as she fantasises about her old life before divorce, alcoholism and heartbreak. The foundations are there for a gripping, exciting drama and, though the adaptation strips away some important perspectives there’s still plenty of meat on the bones.
My main problem with this production is the atrocious acting, which can only reflect badly on direction from Anthony Banks. All believability is stripped away, lines recited with shocking “I’m acting now” voices. The worst culprit is Samantha Womack who plays our leading lady, which makes it all the more frightful as she’s on stage all the time, slurring around and staggering about like a crazed psychopath. She takes a chilling and sinister interest in the murder, rather than a wistful need to feel included in a life that’s not her own anymore. The character is there to be crafted, Womack just misses the mark.
The rest of the cast are forgettable at best, amateurish at worst. I loved Oliver Farnworth in Coronation Street but his talents don’t seem to translate to the stage. His movements are sharp and choreographed, taking any naturalism away immediately.
Staging is also poor, with some scenes acted out to the audience and some meant to be more soap opera-esque. Neither works, and the blending of styles doesn’t really pull off. To be fair to designer James Cotterill, there’s not much to play with – a couple of open plan kitchen/living rooms and a train, but there’s nothing particularly exciting about the set.
The show worked much better in the intimate setting of Leeds Playhouse, with the scrappy Jill Halfpenny taking on a more ferocious and interesting portrayal of Rachel. For a production touring such high calibre venues, it needs further revision.
Catch The Girl On The Train at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, until 14th September.
Photograph credited to Manuel Harlan