from Joanne Rymer for NODA
Adapted from the hit thriller novel by Paula Hawkins, which I have read, Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel have come up with a stage version which is pulling audiences into theatres around the country for most of 2019.
The story is a tale of betrayal and coercive control with an intriguing mystery at the heart, a mystery that is maintained right until the end. A simple effective set, individual apartments stage left and right, four brick covered flats centre stage. Clever lighting, atmospheric effects, loved the scene of crime scene.
The play hurtles straight into the action, Rachel waking up in her dingy kitchen surrounded by empty bottles of alcohol, still in her drab clothes from the previous day. She has a gash on her head but is unable to recall how it happened, like many recent events in her tangled life.
After her childless marriage collapses amid her apparent alcoholism, Rachel repeatedly rides the train past her old house, spying on her ex-husband Tom (Mike Jones) and his new wife Anna (Jenny Dewhurst) and baby Evie… and on a neighbouring couple who seem to have the perfect life. Then the “perfect” woman Megan (Alex Wharton) disappears. Her husband Scott (Michael Webster), her therapist Karl (Gareth Jones) and yes, even Rachel, are suspects.
Rachel is visited by D.I Gaskell (Anna Shaw) who has established that Rachel was in the area that night heard having a screaming match with her ex’s new wife, it then transpires that Rachel may have been the last person to see Megan before she disappeared, if only she were sober enough to remember anything about it.
There are plenty of twists and turns as amateur sleuth Rachel’s attempts to solve the case of missing Megan. The tension increases when Megan is found dead. My main problem with the script was the ease with which Rachel managed to get herself involved in the official police investigation; questionable.
Ticki Clark gives an outstanding performance as Rachel Watson, bringing out every available nuance in the character. The pain and hurt the character feels comes through, and the character becomes more likable, and relatable, as the play goes on. Tikki carries the show.
The open direction by David Oliver supported the casts individual committed performances in particular Mike Jones switching between frayed concern and something a bit darker and Alex Wharton effectively using her second act scene to give greater prominence to Megan’s backstory. However, there’s little sense of the passage of time.
The catalogue of dark and disturbing events is mainly reported to us by characters in an individual monologue delivery, hearing about events second hand had a deadening effect on the action. Where characters did meet, when events did occur on stage the show flared into life.
It’s obvious that this unique production has worked extremely hard to inject some empathy and nuance into the characters and their relationships, bringing this physiological thriller to the stage. The cast certainly throw everything they have at it you all did a fine job with what I feel is a very improbable challenging script.
In saying that the audience did enjoy the performance and let’s be honest that is what theatre is all about. It was a brave play to bring to the stage I congratulate BDS and all concerned.
Thank you for invitation, it was a very interesting and entertaining evening.