Thrilling Ride For The Girl On The Train
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
The Girl on the Train is ubiquitous and, seemingly, everyone has an opinion about her or, should we say, the Paula Hawkins best-selling novel that spawned her.
As I set off for the West Yorkshire Playhouse I was warned: “The film ruined the book. They set it in America and it just didn’t work.” Fortunately for the writer of this review, I ‘ad neither seen ‘owt nor read ‘owt ahead of my exposure…..to the production that is!
And what a beautifully written adaptation it turned out to be. Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel really nailed this one and, in the absence of any prior knowledge of Hawkins’ work, other than an awareness of the novel title and an appreciation that DreamWorks turned it into a film in 2016, I had nothing to worry about other than, ‘so go on, entertain me.’
And they did, brilliantly.
This was a gripping psychological thriller that took you by the throat and steadfastly refused to let you go even when the ice creams beckoned. In many ways I was pleased that I did not have the burden of preconception because, sometimes, people visit the theatre with an overly inflated expectation when they go to see something of which they have prior knowledge, and that can lead to unjustified disappointment.
To me this was a tale with a familiar name; that was all I knew. It was beautifully staged by director, Joe Murphy and Lily Arnold’s simple but innovative set with the overlaying of a moving train to seamlessly transition scenes, kept the plot chugging forward faster than the Flying Scotsman
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Everyone thinks she’s going to work but, in reality, Rachel is a voyeur, watching the lives of her ex and his new wife, as well as their near neighbours Scott and Anna who seem to have the perfect existence. It is during one of these ‘observing moments’ that she sees something, something I will not tell you about however many ‘likes’ you send me!
Which is one of the enduring themes running through the play, self-image as well as isolation, emotional abuse, coercion and controlling behaviour.
Despite its sinister plot of murder and mystery, Wagstaff and Abel have been clever to weave a seam of dark humour into their literary goldmine.
It is a small but experienced cast and, despite long swathes of dialogue, usually between two people, there are few gaps in this well-rehearsed play.
Colin Tierney as DI Gaskill is the quick-thinking detective who never misses a trick, while Theo Ogundipe is the paranoid Scott who momentarily fears a life behind bars when his wife goes missing.
The Girl on the Train is full of twists, turns and finger tapping moments and, if I were a guessing man, I think it will be picked up and rolled out by theatres across the UK, possibly internationally, in the same way that The Woman in Black found its way from Scarborough to Broadway. Another Playhouse ‘A’ Lister and well worth a visit.
The Girl on the Train
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Until June 9th
Thrilling Ride For The Girl On The Train, 17th May 2018, 19:51 PM