Sometimes you need to venture out of the West End to find some lesser known stagey treasures in London. Upstairs at the Gatehouse is a hidden gem situated above a pub in Highgate. The theatre space has been there since 1895, having been home to a versatile mix of shows and now playing host to a revival of The Girl On The Train.
Based on the 2015 novel from Paula Hawkins, it was adapted into a big Hollywood movie in 2016 with the stage adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel debuting in 2018 and enjoying a limited West End run in 2019. Three years and one global pandemic later, it is back with a revised production from Jay Gardner for Gardner Hodges Entertainmentthat gives it a new lease of life.
The Girl On the Train tells the story of Rachel Watson who, after becoming fixated with a woman she watches from the train window, finds herself a suspect in the case of her disappearance. With countless twists along the way as the story unfolds and a group of supporting characters who provide more complicated than they initially appear, this is a thrilling tale, played out meticulously on stage.
Katie Ray expertly leads the production as Rachel, the complicated girl at the heart of the story. She perfectly navigates us through flashbacks and gaps in her memory with a sense of authenticity and sensitivity, committing to a truly incredible performance and keeping true to the flawed nature of her character.
Matching the high level of performance the main character sets may be an unenviable task but the rest of the cast more than step up to the challenge, collectively displaying some of the greatest acting I have seen in a play this year. Chrystine Symone, who recently wowed audiences in Anyone Can Whistle, shows there is no end to her talents in a small but captivating turn as Megan Hipwell, the girl who goes missing in the story. Tori Hargreaves gives a star turn as Anna Watson, the woman married to Rachels ex-husband. A slow burn of a character, the development as events transpire is stunning and played perfectly.
Cavin Cornwall is a standout as D.I Gaskill, commanding attention everytime he appears to move the story along. Kirk Smith and Tom Gordon give great performances as Kamal Abdic and Tom Watson respectively, with the cast completed by Scott Hume, exceptional in his turn as Scott Hipwell.
The writing is what really sets The Girl On The Train apart from other productions. Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abels adaptation of Hawkins feels fresh and exciting while keeping faithful to the source material. Refreshingly pacey and continually gripping with plenty of twists to keep you guessing, this was edge of your seat theatre at its finest.
The staging is grander than you might expect from a space of this size with a gorgeous set design from Richard Cooper, full of mirrored pieces which gives the illusion of more space than it actually is. This is complemented with beautiful lighting from Seb Blaber and a truly fantastic use of sound from Sam Glossop. With phenomenal direction from Joseph Hodges, what you are left with is a truly excellent piece of theatre.
Adapting a popular book is never an easy task, especially when it has already been adapted into a huge movie. This adaptation of The Girl On The Train adds to the legacy perfectly, ensuring it is just as good as those other versions, if not better. An amazing cast giving some of the best acting you will see in a London theatre coupled with glorious production details, I may not have been expecting it but this really was theatre perfection.
The Girl On The Train is at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until July 3rd. Tickets from www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com.
Photos by Kevin Ralph