Samantha Womack is no stranger to the spotlight when it comes to embodying dramatic roles, gracing viewers with her performance on the BBC show EastEnders as the strong headed character Ronnie Mitchell from 2007-2011. She reprised this role again in 2013-2017. This time, the public was able to see her comic as well as dramatic side, proving her versatility with the drunken portrayal of Rachel Watson: the heroine of this book to theatre adaptation of the best-selling novel The Girl on the Train. We were able to warm to Rachel’s character from the very beginning.
“[The opening] set the audience up to feel a sense of mystery and simultaneous unease”
The play opened with a video-scape of a moving train, a template of carriage windows amidst a black back wall with images of buildings and greenery passing behind. In a flash, we then caught a glimpse of Rachel, her face gazing out from behind the screen, looking pensively out over the heads of her audience, as though she was in her own little world (which, of course, fans of the book will know her character is made out to be). This small scene, along with the eerie music that connoted the films, and a flicker of light here and there, set the audience up to feel a sense of mystery and simultaneous unease, as they attentively waited for the action to follow.
“Womack was successful in portraying Rachel’s witty side”
Starting us off was a scene that took place in Rachel’s house, a single wooden set of a kitchen with a few pictures here and there and plenty of bottles on the sides of the surfaces to represent Rachel’s alcoholism. Nonetheless, Womack was successful in portraying Rachel’s witty side, as she slurred her lines, changed her tone and made sure her eyes were a little glossy when she attempted to speak to her ex-husband, Tom (played by Adam Jackson-Smith) who entered the scene a few moments after. Seconds later, we were informed of the key antagonist, Megan Hipwell’s, strange disappearance.
“The scene where Rachel spoke to Megan’s therapist was the most mesmerising”
The opening up of the set to reveal the actress who played Megan (Kirsty Oswald) was something that I found was an impressive creative decision. She appeared every time she was spoken about by the other characters. In order to ensure that the audience would not be confused by the time frame of the action, the days of the week were projected onto the walls, be this in Rachel’s or Megan’s husband, Scott’s (Oliver Farnworth) house. The scene where Rachel spoke to Megan’s therapist (Naeem Hayat) was the most mesmerising, as Megan entered centre stage wearing a red dress and spoke about her past, the most gripping part of the tale.
“It was more interesting to watch than the film”
Along with the rest of this talented cast, it was a delight to see such a well-directed play. I would even go a step further to say that, for me, it was more interesting to watch than the film: a faster pace with a little more colour. To know how the play ends, I suggest you go and watch the 2011 version, one that is equally entertaining.
Featured Image courtesy of Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Official Facebook Page.