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Play is on the right tracks
The Girl On The Train has been travelling around the UK since January, stopping off at theatres to deliver a thrilling psychological mystery. This week the destination was Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre.
Intriguing: Oliver Farnworth and Samantha Womack (pic: Manuel Harlan)
Adapted from Paula Hawkins' smash hit 2015 novel and the 2016 Hollywood film starring Emily Blunt, it's an intriguing couple of hours, with a stand-out performance by Samantha Womack. The former Eastenders star makes the role of alcohol-fuelled Rachel Watson - the girl on the train - her own, injecting some welcome humour that was missing in the film version.
Emotional: Samantha Womack and Adam Jackson-Smith (pic: Manuel Harlan)
Rachel is a regular passenger on a train that passes the house she once shared with husband Tom (Adam Jackson-Smith). Following their divorce, Tom now lives there with new wife, Anna (Phillipa Flynn), but it is their neighbours that particularly intrigue Rachel. She looks forward to seeing Megan Hipwell (Kirsty Oswald) and her husband, Scott (Oliver Farnworth), from the train, believing they have the perfect life. She is shocked when she sees Megan in the arms of another man on the terrace of their house - and then hears that she has disappeared. It turns into an Agatha Christie-style mystery, with everyone suspected of Megan's abduction.
Mystery: Oliver Farnworth and Samantha Womack (pic: Manuel Harlan)
Samantha Womack is rarely off stage and effortlessly takes the audience with her on the journey as she investigates the circumstances around Megan's disappearance.The supporting cast have to work hard to match Womack's contribution. Oliver Farnworth, best known as Andy Carver in Coronation Street, is solid as Megan's husband, although he doesn't appear overly concerned about her absence. Adam Jackson-Smith enjoys some emotional scenes with Womack, while Kirsty Oswald is convincing as the story flashes back to events leading to her disappearance. John Dougall as the police detective DI Gaskill has some humorous interplay with Womack, as does Naeem Hayat, as the therapist Kamal Abdic, when he is being quizzed by Rachel.
Flashback: Naeem Hayat and Kirsty Oswald (pic: Manuel Harlan)
The challenge of presenting the story on stage is dealt with imaginatively. Scene changes are slick and the use of projected images to suggest the movement of the train works well. Creative lighting makes the flashback scenes coherent, while clever sound effects add to the atmosphere, although at times they did drown out some of the dialogue.
The Girl On The Train continues at Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre until August 31. It can also be seen at Malvern's Festival Theatre, October 21 - 26, 2019.