The Girl on the Train, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until Saturday, February 9.
With its shifting perspectives and massive central ambiguity, The Girl on the Train was a novel of huge psychological complexity – and an awful lot of trains.
How on earth was it going to translate to the cinema, we wondered a few years ago. The answer was “Rather well.” And to the theatre now? The answer is “Even better!”
Of course, we are not getting remotely the same thing we got with the novel; but in its vastly-different format, we are getting something almost equally rewarding on stage, thanks to fine performances throughout, all of which are delivered with the complete naturalness of normal speech.
Inevitably, there is something stylised about the staging, but there is nothing remotely stagey about the dialogue, and it’s this that draws us in.
The novel’s great strength is that it makes us watch from the inside, clearly something the stage play cannot do.
But Samantha Womack’s central performance still manages to capture so much of the uncertainty which has to hover around Rachel: is she the flawed, damaged observer, the tragic wronged woman; or is she perhaps the killer?
Womack keeps us guessing as she delivers a masterclass in stage acting.
Rachel is the woman who so famously and so enviously eyed up the seemingly-perfect lives she glimpses and imagines from her passing train – lives, it slowly emerges, in which she has huge vested interest.
And then one of the women she has been watching goes missing…
Just how compromised is Rachel as she inveigles herself still further into other people’s lives?
It is all superbly done, a stage adaptation which keeps faith where it can and ultimately creates something compellingly new.
Very watchable indeed. A terrific adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ seemingly-unadaptable novel…
Excellent too from Oliver Farnworth.