Tag Archives: Alison de Burgh

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
★★

Theatre Royal Brighton & UK Tour

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

Theatre Royal Brighton

Reviewed – 17th June 2019

★★

 

“the inherently flawed direction and script leaves us feeling a little short changed”

 

The stage adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel of Paula Hawkin’s smash-hit novel, The Girl on The Train, screeches into Brighton prior to transferring to the West End. It puts Rachel Watson, played by Samantha Womack, as an unemployed alcoholic who spies into her ex husband Tom’s home from the train and soon finds herself at the centre of a murder investigation. The victim? Her ex-husband’s mistress, Megan.

Rachel, who yearns for a different life is bitterly grieving for the one she has now lost. The plot is seemingly plucked from thin air as out of the blue, ex-husband Tom (Adam Jackson Smith) comes knocking at the door of her cluttered and untidy flat. He is investigating whether she had any involvement in the murder which happened on the evening she turned up at his house, berating his new wife Anna (Lowenna Melrose).

With crime thriller interest at an all time high with smash-hit TV shows like Broadchurch and Line of Duty, the production ultimately lacks genuine research and integrity which is a shame. The inspector tasked with the case incoherently deals with Rachel as a potential suspect and it doesn’t sit well. DI Gaskell, played rather too melodramatically by John Dougall, gives away confidential information and access to murder scenes which confuses. The relationship between suspect and police could be more intelligent, the psychological analysis of interrogation could have been a strong point but again, the poor writing fails miserably in it’s feeble attempt at being somewhat mildly realistic and poetic.

Director Anthony Banks could do more to raise the stakes within each scene, we are watching a murder investigation and so called ‘psychological thriller’ but yet I do not believe the majority of the performances or staging. The clunky transitions between scenes see Womack walk into a focused light for ten seconds or so with no real purpose except for masking a scene change and ultimately drops the rare bit of energy that is created in the scene before. Womack has a big task in carrying The Girl On The Train as Rachel is centre of every scene but unlike in the novel and film, Rachel lacks real character depth and likeability. I feel for Womack as I know she has the ability to carry a good script, but she is desperately underserved by the writers but supported by the rest of the cast (Oliver Farnworth, Naeem Hayat, Matt Concannon and Phillipa Flynn). One redeeming performance is Kirsty Oswald as Megan, her brief monologues are complex and performed with a real level of emotion and truth.

The Girl On The Train is a clumsy and poorly directed adaptation of a story which is somewhat of a literature phenomenon. Despite it’s stunning design by James Cotterill and admirable ambition, the inherently flawed direction and script leaves us feeling a little short changed.

 

Reviewed by Nathan Collins

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


The Girl on the Train

Theatre Royal Brighton until 22nd June then UK tour continues

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
This is Elvis | ★★★ | July 2018
Salad Days | ★★★ | September 2018
Rocky Horror Show | ★★★★ | December 2018
Benidorm Live! | ★★★★ | February 2019
Noughts And Crosses | ★★ | March 2019
Rotterdam | ★★★★ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

The Sweet Science of Bruising – 4 Stars

Bruising

The Sweet Science of Bruising

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 5th October 2018

★★★★

“it doesn’t quite land a knockout punch, however, this is important and compulsive viewing”

 

In Joy Wilkinson’s richly entertaining new play, four women, from diverse segments of Victorian society, find solace from the tedium and oppression of their day-to-day lives in the novel world of all-female boxing. Slugging it out in the backrooms of Islington to be crowned ‘Lady Boxing Champion of the World’, they provoke an aghast (and sometimes violent) response from patriarchal, ‘polite’ society.

Cannily, Wilkinson allows the status of these spectacles to remain ambiguous. Are they a kind of proto-feminist display of solidarity and valour? An exploitative circus, choreographed, literally, by the Svengali-like Professor Sharp (an excellent Bruce Alexander)? Or, as one of the fighter’s relatives strikingly suggests towards the end, an act of mere egotism on the part of the participants? The strength of the play is in its timely suggestion that, in rigidly oppressive societies, simple solutions are hard to come by and ‘progress’ can be tricky to measure.

Wilkinson has worked extensively for television which comes across in the play’s engaging, televisual-style sharp, snappy scenes and intertwining storylines. In fact, the evening feels a little akin to a Netflix box-set (one might see certain similarities with the streaming series Glow). A steady directorial hand is provided by Kirsty Patrick Ward who stages the text with the pace and clarity it demands. Anna Reid’s set-design, somewhat resembling a boxing-ring, uses the intimacy of the Southwark’s studio space to its full effect. From a lineup of strong performances, Fiona Skinner’s brittle, defiant Polly Stokes stands out.

At times, the narrative is pursued a little too urgently. The thoughtful questions posed in the first act get somewhat submerged by the haywire over-plotting of the second: promising narrative threads are rushed through or got slightly lost. Further, whereas the play neatly navigates its individual storylines, one was eager to see more of the women together, comparing their experiences. A bit more time with the boxing matches themselves would also have been appreciated (especially if it meant further opportunity to showcase Alison de Burgh’s brilliant fight direction).

It doesn’t quite land a knockout punch, however, this is important and compulsive viewing.

 

Reviewed by Joe Spence

Photography by Mitzide Margary

 


The Sweet Science of Bruising

Southwark Playhouse until 27th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Bananaman | ★★★ | January 2018
Pippin | ★★★★ | February 2018
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com