Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

To Saturday, November 9

A TALENTED cast, headed by charismatic Samantha Womack, keeps the audience on the edge of their seats in off-beat mystery thriller The Girl On The Train.

But Paula Hawkins’ 2015 best-selling book loses its three narrators – and some of its appeal – in a slower moving stage version, adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel. Fortunately, there is still sufficient suspense, and the unique plot keeps us guessing.

Womack plays alcoholic Rachel Watson, who has daily glimpses of a loving couple through her train window. But when Rachel learns that the woman she’s been secretly watching, Megan Hipwell, has suddenly disappeared, she becomes a witness and then a suspect– while carrying out her own investigation.

The star of EastEnders and Kingsman has a tougher task on stage than Emily Blunt in the 2016 film. She gets Rachel’s dishevelled look just right and ideally captures her frustration, petulance and memory lapses.

But she is unable to fully develop an obsessive, frustrated character who envies her former husband and his new wife and baby.

To add to Rachel’s fixation, her train also takes her past the home of her ex so she spies on him, his current wife and baby as well.

Although the cast would benefit from a slicker script, and more pacey directing from Anthony Banks, they cope well.

There are excellent performances by Adam Jackson-Smith, playing the ex-husband Tom Watson, and Oliver Farnworth, as the missing woman’s husband Scott Hipwell, while understudy Matt Concannon, replacing the sick John Dougall, brings light relief as witty DI Gaskill. Kirsty Oswald and Naeem Hayat convincingly play the missing Megan Hipwell and her therapist.

Andrzej Goulding’s video design, combined with Jack Knowles’ lighting, cleverly provides the illusion of the train, but James Cotterill’s living room, kitchen and bedsit sets could be better.

Tony Flood