Based on novel by Paula Hawkins

Adapted by Rachel Wagstaff & Duncan Abel. 


Directed by Anthony Banks. 


Churchill Theatre,


until Saturday, October 19th, 2019.   

The stage thriller is an exclusive art in many ways - entertainment for the whole family as we try to work out what dastardly varmint carried out the dirty deed. Always slightly tongue in cheek the mystery is the drug - who, where, why? From Cluedo type games to even Enid Blyton mystery writing - images of long grey socks and grazed knees come to mind. But something happened to the stage thriller around the turn of the century - we went from the likes of "The Mousetrap" to a more believable, sinister production. Special illusionary effects have a lot to do with it of course, but murder itself is now portrayed in a more violent, realistic fashion. In the old days, the corpse was often still warm as the curtain was raised - still even breathing sometimes!  Now though, it's all about realism and shock factor - and this cleverly worked adaption does not fail to deliver. 


The book by Paula Hawkins published 4 years ago sold 1.5m copies within 3 months and the obligatory smash hit movie followed in late 2016, starring Emily Blunt no less. So now we have the stage production with Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson, a troubled divorced drunkard - that's a bit harsh actually. She does like a drink though - but she drinks alone, at home - often a sign (so they tell me) of someone with a "problem".  


Rachel can't remember how she injured herself - she has a nasty wound on her forehead. Was she involved in a fight the night before? She can't remember, not even when her ex-husband Scott turns up to check on her. Her flat's a mess, she's a mess and she's even taken to travelling up to London every day for appearance's sake after losing her job six months earlier. She suspects everyone and when she sees something from the train one day, well, the story spirals into a murder mystery, with a terrible hidden secret from several years before. 


It's quite an intricate story and I wonder whether it's really suited to the stage. Samantha Womack gives a convincing performance as poor Rachel. She has the ability to look quite stunningly beautiful one moment and then give a look as a mad crazed killer - a bit like Ruth Wilson. Oliver Farnworth is Scott Hipwell - Andy Carver in Corrie - and also does well as Rachel's ex-husband. John Dougall is D.I.Gaskill - the detective has to be Scottish doesn't he?  Megan is missing and the detective is convinced Rachel is involved, which she is,of course, but in what way?  Even Rachel herself isn't clear on that, so decides to try & solve the mystery herself. 


Megan is played by the lovely Kirsty Oswald and although there is tragedy and some violence to come as we reach our exciting climax, I can't help feeling that Miss Womack is probably responsible for filling a lot of the seats on this tour. Naeem Hayat, (Kamal Abdic), Adam Jackson-Smith (Tom Watson) and Lowenna Melrose (Anna Watson) complete a strong cast and audience's will enjoy seeing them rip into each other. 


Director Anthony Banks is a bit of a train spotter it transpires - he directed "Strangers on a Train"  a few years ago which I thought was absolutely brilliant - and is currently working on "Dial M For Murder". What a talented, if not macabre fellow!  Be sure to catch this train before it leaves Bromley.   


Review by Geoff Billingsley
High Street
0203 285 6000