The Girl on the Train, Street Theatre at Strode Theatre, Street

ADAPTING Paula Hawkins’ best selling novel The Girl on the Train for the stage is a challenge both for the actors and for the technical team, as its tension requires not only moving images of railway movement but clear depictions of messages on mobile phones and lots of often startling sound effects. All very well for a professional theatre company perhaps, but making what might be offputting demands on the resources of amateur groups.

Nothing daunted, Street Theatre chose the play and embarked on the rehearsals, the cast learning their lines at the same time as the techies sorted out the sound and visual effects. It all came together at Strode Theatre on the college campus, packing the auditorium with audiences eager to see this play, which is heralded as bringing the English whodunnit into the 21st century.

It has almost all the requisite elements – red herrings, unreliable witnesses, clever baddies, apparently bumbling policemen – but the fireplace is replaced by an impenetrable piece of art and the body isn’t found in the drawing room.

Director Paul Townsend has been lucky to find an exceptional cast for this foray into the world of hi-tec cinematic theatricality, bringing in some newcomers to the company in this, the first of three productions three years.

The least reliable witness of all is Rachel, divorced wife of Tom – and she is the narrator of the whole story. We meet her as she lies, wrecked on the floor, surrounded by empty bottles and snack wrappers, nursing a thunderous headache and a brain full of fog, through which she is trying … trying … to focus on an image she knows is important. The door bell rings and a policeman arrives. What is it she wants to tell him???

She is aggressive and defensive, lying, inventing and agonisingly remembering the events of a previous evening. In fits and starts she unravels the recollections, but a ceaseless supply of vodka masquerading as water in a “fitness bottle” further fogs the facts. The audience is ping-ponged back and forth between understanding who is the villain and who the victim. The end is a shock, and it’s dependent on the total and very intense commitment of the cast to bring it off. At Street they do it brilliantly.

Alice Cameron (Rachel) is almost never off stage and in a constant physical and mental whirlwind of emotions and regrets – she gives an astonishing characterisation of this tormented young woman. Sarah Martin (Megan) makes the best of her big moment telling her back story to psychotherapist Kamal (Dan Simmons). Tris Hann has the thankless role of Scott, husband of the missing Megan, and Tom, former husband of Rachel and now husband of Anna (Georgia Stone), is played by the charismatic Will Veron. Versatile Street Theatre regular Rob Prince brings extra layers to the detective inspector.

Congratulations to the entire stage crew and those who designed and devised the snowscape and visuals. Alice Cameron, making her second appearance on the Strode stage, is currently auditioning for drama schools. They should snap her up now.


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