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What we thought of Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train at the Marlowe

Sometimes it's the unscripted moments on stage which make you see an actor in their true spotlight.

At the opening night of the thriller The Girl on the Train, five minutes in, as Samantha Womack - starring as Rachel - stepped on stage, drank from a wine bottle, then vomited into a pizza box, and answered the door to her ex-husband... only the door wouldn't open.

As the curtain came down for the set to be fixed, and the sell-out audience looked at eachother, we waited anxiously to see what would come next. After a short wait, the play resumed, from the very beginning, and Samantha Womack returned fresh to the stage, entirely unfazed, as though nothing had happened (save for the cheer when she opened the door).

Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train
Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train

It was just a tiny sample of what was to come. If you've read the No.1 bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins or seen the film starring Emily Blunt, you'll know the tale is the story of Rachel Watson, who gets caught up in a thrilling mystery after watching a couple from the window of the train every morning.

It means a strong performance and stage presence is called for in the leading lady - and Samantha delivers in spades. Much of the play she has to appear semi-drunk, but that state of drunk where you're trying to appear not drunk, which she performs effortlessly. As Rachel goes through her discoveries and changes from vulnerable victim almost opting out of life, to strong, sober woman searching for the truth and facing her demons at every turn, Samantha was faultless.

Despite the serious subject matter, there was also a surprising number of lighter moments and humour - even a few smiles with the audience.

Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train
Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train

The staging, despite the door patch hiccup, was brilliantly done, so simple yet so effective, with what was only really three sets, yet you didn't notice as they fitted so well, and the acting was so gripping.

The signature music, with a projected view of the train windows gave me goosebumps every time it appeared.

The whole cast were strong, especially Coronation Street's Oliver Farnworth as Scott and Adam Jackson-Smith as Tom. It was also hard not to like Scots detective DI Gaskill (John Dougall), who provided much of the laughs.

Oliver Farnworth with Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train
Oliver Farnworth with Samantha Womack in The Girl on the Train

Even though we had both knew what was coming in the plot, we were still on the edge of our seats, waiting to see what would happen. The show was a triumph - we could have easily watched it again the next night.

The show is at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury until Saturday, August 24. If you get the chance, go and see it.

Book at marlowetheatre.com or call 01227 787787.

The show is also at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley from Monday, October 14 to Saturday, October 19.

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