The Girl on the Train

Theatre Royal, Brighton

Monday, June 17 to Saturday, June 22

BEST known for her role as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, Brighton-born Samantha Womack is captivating audiences as Rachel Watson in the stage adaptation of The Girl on the Train. Jamie Walker spoke to her about her south coast upbringing and her most challenging role to date.

Hi Samantha, how much are you looking forward to bringing The Girl on the Train to Brighton?

It’s mad, Brighton is my birthplace.

I’ve moved around a lot in my life, I’ve been quite nomadic, so Brighton is probably the only place I’ve ever called home because my formative years were there.

It’s connected to my dad too, who is no longer in my life. I always expect him to walk round the corner.

I’ve had my goddaughter coming to spend time with me there so she will be the same age I was, going along Brighton beach.

It will be nice going back and re-treading my footsteps with her. It’s a very cool place, I love it.

And you have a few dates here which makes it a lot easier to enjoy the city.

Yeah and we’re here at a good time of year too. The whole cast are looking forward to it, it’s going to be amazing.

And how has the tour been going so far?

We’ve been on tour now for three months, which means we’ve been all over the place.

It’s a difficult one, I toured with Addams Family musical last year and it’s very different. The play is one of the best I have been involved in, the audiences have just gone nuts for it.

That’s why we extended the dates into Christmas time. The social media has been buzzing with it as well.

It’s quite dark but it caters to all age groups because it’s got some weird laughs in it too.

I couldn’t say I fully enjoy doing the show because Rachel is just a nutcase. I feel so knackered by the end of it.

I’ll go out and chill with the cast but I don’t feel like that puts me in the place I need to be in for the show.

This tour has been a lot more solitary for me – it’s like waiting to have an argument. But then you look at the audience and they’re loving it which is brilliant.

And this is a show where you’re on stage throughout, you don’t get much time to break between acts?

No there’s no time really. I get the interval but that’s when I’m changing and it’s all over before it’s begun. It’s a two hour mad journey. It is quite violent too.

I can’t imagine that’s like anything you’ve done before?

No I haven’t done anything like this before. But I’ve worked the hardest on this character. She’s drunk – but not a comic drunk – she’s dark and vulnerable and kind of fragmented.

I certainly feel like it’s one of the most interesting parts I’ve ever played. My husband [Mark Womack] is an actor too. He came to see it a while ago and said it was really interesting.

He said it was one of the things he’s enjoyed seeing me in the most. Twitter has gone crazy for it so it’s hard but it’s definitely been worthwhile.

And it must be interesting for you to be doing something you’ve never done before in terms of acting?

Yeah, I try to make my choices based on that. I did the same with EastEnders. I did nine years there and then I’d come away for a while and do a musical or film or directing.

I get bored very easily and when I get bored I get depressed. The repetition of something has never sat well with me.

It helps if I change each character, it’s helpful to play diverse characters. It also stops you from being typecast.

So talk to me about the show’s concept, it seems like a subject which , at its base, a lot of people can relate to?

Yeah this is a woman living in the modern world. She feels quite isolated and alone so she’s looking into people’s lives and imagining them to be perfect.

But sometimes the life that seems the most perfect can be the darkest. The writer Paula Hawkins really taps into the psyche and minds of people.

Humans are in a weird place because we feel like we’re progressing, because we have everything at our fingertips, but I think humans are actually starting to feel more and more isolated from each other.

That lends itself to mental illness and all that stuff. We look through windows and screens to get our fix. So I think people identify with the show and with Rachel.

She drinks because she is trying to escape, she has this whole secret world in her head too so what she is on the outside is different to inside.

People like her when she’s badly behaved. At the start I thought people would hate her but you have to commit to that. She’s very violent and unpredictable but the audience are on the edge of their seats because of that.

We all would love to not be able to have a filter and she has that. You’re almost exorcising your own frustrations through the character.

Do you have those feelings that you are wanting to get off your chest in those moments?

There is always an element of that. I spoke to my husband the other day and told him I felt quite weird on tour, a bit out of it. He said it was just infectious playing that character – so the lines between your feelings and the character’s feeling become quite blurred.

I’m not extremely method but it happens naturally. I use a slightly different voice as Rachel and so that’s having an impact on my normal voice – I’m starting to sound like an old drunk.

In terms of the difference between stage and screen, how much do the two differ in terms of how you perform?

They’re all different. Soap is very different because it’s slightly heightened and not really believable so you have to drop the questions you’d have about a character.

You work crazy busy but it’s all back to front and out of order. Sometimes in a day on EastEnders you’d shoot scenes from six different episodes.

Then theatre is the story from start to finish and you are completely in control. I enjoy the immediacy of theatre. And as a night owl the hours really suit me. It suits my lifestyle better.