The Girl On The Train, Theatre Review, Grand Opera House, June 11, 2019
By Conor O’Neill
And so begins a tale, one you’ll find hard to believe. Crushing, devastating, beguiling and most unlikely, endearing.
If, like me, you’ve never read the book, or watched the movie, The Girl On The Train, is a dashing piece of theatre. At times frustratingly complex, at others simple, with whispering, whispered and returning jokes, which are definitely on the edge of morality, and bring the heavy subject matter to a human level. Well, they had to as their main source of sustenance are murder, infanticide, adultery, domestic violence, voyeurism, alcoholism, failed IVF, and lie upon lie which makes as a solicitor’s office or a prison cell seem a hive of virtue.
Based on Paula Hawkins’ 2015 novel of the same name, it apparently lost all its panache and nuance when Hollywood got their mitts on it back in October 2016. Thankfully director, Anthony Barnes, alongside an impressive production team right the wrongs of our cinematic cousins across the pond.
Set design, wardrobe and lighting turn the Grand Opera’s House stage from its unique Victorian beauty to a messy alcoholic’s flats somewhere in a satellite town on the edge of London. The resident and drunken pragmatist at the heart of the mayhem is Rachael Watson. Those of us of a certain age will remember Watson in her former life as the no nonsense flatmate of two bungling male buffoons in the early 1990s comedic sitcom that was Game On. Though in this show all former glitz and glamour are gone. From comedy to EastEnders, film, musicals, Womack, in this piece shows a diversity few might aspire to and even less could achieve.
She looks a girl lost: regret, unemployment, the skeletons of love lost and her dependency on the bottle, though she oft quotes the line, “I don’t drink”, one of the many laughs unifying the 1000 plus of us who believe in her, but with her habitual blackouts, it’s hard to believe, truly believe in her sparsely remembered alibi.
The unsettled mess of her flat is not the only setting of creeping through thisplay. We move to ex-hubby Tom’s (Adam Jackson Smith) somewhat more sophisticated dwelling. One he shares with new wife Anna (Lowenna Melrose). Rachel can only look on as they seem to have all she wants: stability, conformity, structure and most frustratingly, Jealousy is only compounded by the fact they have a baby; Evie, something Rachel could not provide.
And did I forget to mention there Megan.
Missing. blackouts and an injury to the head D.I Gaskill (John Dougal) is fixated to uncover.The above may make for grim-reaper reading, but set changes, especially those of trains ticker-taping their way across the backdrop, the thunder and rattle adding to the composite of the missing, assumed dead, Megan (Kirsty Oswald. Dressed in red and retelling her story, often in the middle of an ongoing discussion between the suspicious and warring partners.
Psychotherapist, Kamal Abdic (Naeem Hayat) knows too much; having been the man behind the mind to reshape such worried minds, you’d, if you were Taggart, you’dhave him on the last strand of the list if the yo-you was up-word-bound.
Then there is Scott Hipwell (Oliver Farnworth), another ex and ghost from the past, yet always in the present. Benign he may seem, but one to watch.
not quiteWell, that’s the ‘but’ over. With the drinking not quite in the past, but certainly reduced, where the clouds of drunken smog lifting and D.I Gaskill’s investigations coming to fruition, we finally have a gripping, and within keeping with the bricks and mortar of this scintillating piece of knock out theatre, there is a steadfast conclusion. The GOH hasn’t had this sort of intense and silent drama on a serious scale since last year’s The Winslow Boy.
This is not The Waltons, indeed far from it; I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Girl On The Train runs until Saturday, June 15, you’d be unhinged not to see, feel and embrace it.
For our tickets phone the box-office on 02890 241919 or visit http://www.goh.co.uk
Tickets areflowing out the door, Thursday and Saturday’s matinees being your best