The Girl on The Train: better on the page than the stage

The Girl On The Train runs Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate

The Girl On The Train runs Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate - Credit: Kevin Ralph

The Girl on The Train

Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate

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Rachel Watson’s life is in freefall; divorced, unemployed, she lives alone in an about-to-be repossessed home and her only friend is a Russian called Absolut who she takes with her wherever she goes.

One evening a detective (the impressively measured Cavin Cornwall) calls at her bottle strewn flat to ask if she knows anything about the disappearance of a young woman called Megan.

To fill time, Rachel still commutes into town and her daily train takes her past the house she shared with her psychopathic ex Tom Gordon. Now remarried, he and new wife Anna are all lurved up with their new baby – a deep scar for the childless Rachel (played with depth and emotional energy by Katie Ray)

The Girl on The Train

The Girl on The Train - Credit: Kevin Ralph

What unfolds is a series of overlapping and interlocking relationships with Rachel at their centre. She (perhaps too abruptly) stops drinking to devote herself to getting to the bottom of Megan’s disappearance which soon turns into a murder investigation.

As testified by the success of Paula Hawkins’ original novel and subsequent film adaptation, Girl on a Train is a terrific story – an absorbing page-turner with a startling denouement. But what works well on the page doesn't always translate to the stage. Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel’s adaptation is a curate’s egg; when it’s good it’s great, but too many fundamentals have been overlooked.

Several cast members didn’t project their lines and I found myself creeping closer to the stage to catch what they were saying. The use of flashback - a common film device perhaps less effective in theatre  - was over-done and over-long.

The Girl on The Train

The Girl on The Train - Credit: Kevin Ralph

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Several characters were little more than cyphers, but perhaps the major failing in the era of #MeToo, was how casual violence and gas lighting is normalised without comment. Tightening dialogue and character motivation could have improved the evening’s entertainment in what is one of north London’s best and friendliest venues.

Until July 3, Upstairs at The Gatehouse. Visit upstairsatthegatehouse.ticketsolve.com/shows/1173621707/events/428457419