Whatever magic made Paula Hawkins’ thriller such a huge success – millions sold, bestseller records smashed – has been stripped away for the stage version.
Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel’s adaptation was coldly received when it premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse last year, and this new touring production still fails to find any virtues in the plodding, workaday script.
The three intertwined narrators of the book are gone, so is the compelling, sleazy, voyeuristic atmosphere – along with every smidgeon of suspense. All that’s left, really, is the plot.
This involves an alcoholic called Rachel Watson who spies on her ex every day from a train, a missing woman called Megan Hipwell, and a big blank where Rachel’s memory should be concerning the night Megan disappeared.
Samantha Womack does well with Rachel’s dishevelled, not-showered-for-days look, but a lot of the time she just rattles through the lines. There are hints of a stronger performance here: impassive, desperately sad and borderline sociopathic, but those moments are too few.
Partly that’s a problem of a script so exposition-dense that all the cast can do is just deliver it. There’s no room for tone or emotion. Anthony Banks’ directing is also to blame.
There’s very little theatrical about it. Instead we get a very run-of-the-mill episode of any TV whodunnit – a not very good episode of Lewis plonked on to a stage.
The video design by Andrzej Goulding and sound by the Ringham brothers are very classy, but James Cotterill’s sets – living room, kitchen, bedsit – are clunky, and Jack Knowles’ off-kilter lighting accentuates rather than masks their flaws.
It isn’t dreadful, just assiduously dull. Its problems could have been solved with a staging that had some imagination, and direction that had some pace, but there’s as much sign of that as there is of Megan Hipwell.