Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN at Howick Little Theatre

Adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel from the novel by Paula Dawkins.

By: May. 14, 2021

Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN  at Howick Little Theatre


Adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel from the novel by Paula Dawkins

Subtle secrets

Set in a suburban town in England in present time, "THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN" is a contemporary and complex psycho-thriller, a "whodunnit" with twists and turns, anticipations and numerous attempts to guess just who is guilty and who is not. Can we trust the "storyteller" or she suffering from alcohol binge-brained amnesia? What are the secrets she is trying to unearth?

Superbly directed by award-winning director, Matthew van den Berg, this is an intriguing (and challenging) production that works! It engages your mind in the opening moments and it never lets you get away. There is a connected and overlapping construction to the direction which ensures a powerful interaction throughout the story, maintaining its pace and energy. The interweave of sophisticated lighting (Glen Mortensen) and slick sound (Nik Rolls, Matthew van der Berg) and superb stage direction keeps the audience entirely in the moment, entirely gripped by the action that is unfolding before them. We believe we are there - at the station, on the platforms, in the various homes and offices, switching with ease between recollections and reality.

In psychological thrillers, the characters often have to battle an inner struggle. We watch as Rachel Watson (Katie Fullard) seeks to unravel the truth. Her binge-drinking does not help her clarity of mind. The character is a complex one - at times, alcohol-muddled, at times clear thinking, at times sad, at times angry, at times afraid, at times hopeful. Katie Fullard adroitly captures Rachel with a depth of psychological, physical and vocal truth.

Post-divorce and obviously still desperately unhappy, Rachel takes the train to work. Every day the train passes by the house she lived in with her husband, Tom Watson (Cameron Smith). He still lives there, with his new wife, Anna Watson (Natasha Foster) and child. Another challenging role here, which Cameron Smith develops with dexterity. We are never entirely certain just what his motives are.

However, to distract herself from what she sees as the life she should have had, Rachel imagines that another couple who live a few houses down - Megan (Saga Vigre Bohinen) and Scott Hipwell (Daniel Wilkinson) are the perfect happy couple.

But are they?

In psychological thrillers, the characters may be threatened with death, be forced to deal with the deaths of others, or fake their own deaths. So, we are not surprised when one day, as the train passes, Rachel sees something alarming, which fills her with anger. The next day, she wakes up as usual with a hangover, but also various wounds and bruises, and no memory of the night before. She has only a feeling: something bad happened.

When Megan Hipwell goes missing, Rachel is desperate to find out what happened to Megan, where she is, and what exactly she herself was up to that same night - the night Megan went missing. Might she be involved? The investigation includes visiting the handsome psychologist Kamal Abdic (Romain Mereau), who is definitely stepping across professional/client boundaries.

Common elements of a psycho-thriller also include the determined detective D.I Gaskill (Ruth Edgar) and the serial killer. Ruth Edgar expertly portrays that hard-nosed detective, ruthless in pursuit of the killer, adeptly negotiating her way and driving the plot through a cat and mouse narrative. The ending is superbly directed and enacted by this talented cast. But I am not telling you how it ends!

A production is always as good as the sum of the talent involved and in this case -each and every element combines to bring you a professionally executed psychological thriller. Howick Little Theatre is one of the first theatre companies in the world to produce the play, and possibly the first non-professional one. It was a brave undertaking - but the result is creative, solid and artistic. Don't miss it!

On until 29 May.

Bookings or phone 09 361 1000