Based on the novel by Paula Hawkins and the Dreamworks film, adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel
A Simon Friend, Amblin Partners and Josh Andrews presentation
Lowry Lyric theatre, 1 April 2019 - 6 April 2019 and touring, final date Blackpool Winter Gardens 19 November 2019 - 23 November 2019
2hr 10min, including interval
I haven’t seen the film but I have read the paperback, on a sun lounger about four years ago, with gin and tonic on hand. So my memory of it isn't that clear - you know how it is.
But from what I do remember, much of the action takes place on a train as it whizzes past a house next to the railway line. So how do they manage that on stage? Plenty of people obviously want to know - first night at the Lowry was a sell-out.
It’s a particularly difficult play to review because so much depends on its twists and turns and it would be unfair to give too much away, but here goes…
Rachel travels on the train every day past her old house, pondering her former life married to Tom and fantasising about a couple who live a few doors away and seem to have a perfect life.
Rachel has lost her marriage and her friends. The fantasy she is building about the couple has become her only escape, until tragedy strikes and the young wife from the supposed perfect couple is missing….
It all becomes pretty complex as what is basically a good old-fashioned psychological whodunnit, with a modern twist, plays out over a pretty intense couple of hours or so.
Samantha Womack (EastEnders’ Ronnie Mitchell, etc) is the girl with a rail card, a drink problem and an unhealthy, voyeuristic obsession with other people’s affairs and she gives a pretty powerful, ambivalent, performance. Is she simply a psychologically damaged observer, or is she the killer? Womack keeps you guessing.
There’s support from Adam Jackson-Smith as Rachel’s estranged husband, ex-Corrie’s Oliver Farnworth as the husband of the missing wife and Kirsty Oswald as the missing Megan, but performances are somewhat variable, though the lines they have to deliver and the situations in which they find themselves get clunkier and clunkier as matters progress.
The train scenes? Actually there isn’t anything like as much time on board as I seem to remember from the book and it’s achieved, of course, quite effectively with sound, projections and lighting.
The production as a whole, with its wheeled-on room sets, isn’t massive on the huge Lyric stage, but the full width of the available space is utilised quite cleverly and everyone is miked, which as I’ve been banging on about for some time, is absolutely essential for a play in a large theatre these days, making a huge difference to audience involvement.
The production has its faults and you can be more aware of them than you ought to be while you’re watching it but the time speeds by rapidly. You always want to know what happens next and you can’t always say that about a night at the theatre.