Samantha Womack coming to the Orchard in The Girl On The Train
PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 April 2019
Thriller fans are clearly in for a treat when director Anthony Banks promises the stage adaptation of The Girl On The Train “is absolutely packed with twists and turns”.
Anthony has a string of acclaimed thrillers to his credit but even he has to admit: “This has even more twists and turns than I've ever had to juggle before.”
Scripted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, the play – which comes to the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, on May 7 with Samantha Womack in the lead – is as an adaptation of Paula Hawkins' 2015 bestselling novel.
It revolves around Rachel Watson, an unhappy alcoholic who thinks the couple she sees from her computer train every day are perfectly in love.
Then the wife Megan disappears and, as Rachel inveigles her way into the life of Megan's husband Scott, she finds herself both a witness and potential suspect.
Rachel is a dream role for Samantha, who recalls being gripped by the novel when she read it, and also a challenging one.
“There are about 70 pages of dialogue for me to learn,” says the actress best known for playing Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders.
“It's like playing Hamlet.” She smiles. “I never shut up.”
Having appeared in the West End in Guys And Dolls and toured in South Pacific and The Addams Family, Brighton-born Samantha isn't as worried by all that dialogue as she is about playing a convincing drunk.
“It's a really hard thing to do,” she says. “Drink is like a truth syrup that removes all the boundaries so rather than a comical element, with the slurring and slipping up, I think Rachel's just completely unpredictable.
“It's about what happens when she's drunk and where does her brain go?”
She is chatting during a break from rehearsals where she and co-star Oliver Farnworth (who plays Scott) have been running through an intense scene where tensions flare up between Rachel and Scott.
The break is also a welcome one for Coronation Street star Oliver (he was Andy Carver on the soap until 2017), although he's really enjoying sinking his acting teeth into the complex role of Scott.
“Throughout the play you're drip-fed more information about him so the audience gets to build up a case file.
“Has he been left by his wife? Has something happened to make her run away?”
Having been a bit of a bad lad in Corrie prior to which he was manipulative Will Hacket in Hollyoaks, the actor adds: “Roles like this are more interesting to me as an actor rather than playing the prince charming, nice guy, boyfriend-next-door sort of thing.
“I like roles that have a bit of meat and a bit of weight to them.”
Also in the cast are John Dougall as Detective Inspector Gaskill and Kirsty Oswald as Megan. Adam Jackson-Smith plays Rachel's ex-husband Tom, Lowenna Melrose is his new wife Anna and Naeem Hayatt is Kamal, a therapist who may or may not have been having an affair with Megan.
Samantha, who made her EastEnders debut in 2007, says: “I miss my EastEnders friends and family and they really are a family. You go through so much together - marriages, losses, births - and you become incredibly connected.”
Not being tied into a long-running soap allows her to do more theatre, although she confesses: “The unpredictability of my future is terrifying.
“Ten years ago when I went into EastEnders I was younger and you embrace the unknown. The older I get the scarier it is, although I'm learning to enjoy it again.”
If pushed she would choose stage work over TV.
“I'm a control freak,” she grins. “From the minute I'm on stage it can't be edited.
“I also love the immediacy of theatre.”
Laughing about the appropriate analogy, she adds: “I love being on a train and not getting off until it's done.”