STAGE REVIEW: The Girl on the Train at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Monday, October 21 to Saturday, October 25, 2019.

SOUNDS just like a regular event on British Rail with the train you’re waiting for late arriving at its destination.

Not leaves on the lines, or a signalling problem, but this time a theatrical technical glitch which delayed the start of this gripping whodunit by around 15 minutes.

Despite having to bide our time for a spell in the ‘waiting room’ this psychological thriller was swiftly on track.

It’s a thriller and a chiller with a mix of abuse, betrayal and, of course, murder! But figuring out the real guilty party is as tricky as working your way through the latest rail timetables.

The girl gazing on passing life from her carriage window is the pivotal figure around which this absorbing story revolves.

Samantha Womack’s divorced Rachel Watson is, at times, quite low key, but as an absent minded and confused alcoholic she certainly hits the spot overall. She longs for a different life, possibly like the couple she views from the train - but the woman goes missing and she finds herself not only a witness and also a possible suspect.

There are moments of comedy too in this very dark tale as Samantha’s powerful portrayal is interspersed with spots of amusing drunken slurs and verbal sparring with John Dougall’s impressive DI Gaskill, as he attempts to cross the t’s and dot the i’s on who committed the crime.

Based on Paula Hawkins’ best selling novel its sees the cast of nine sticking basically to her original work and coping admirably in limited space as the action switches from the train, to home life and eerie areas near the tracks, along with flashbacks, for which the creative team earn credit.

Packed with tension as the main protagonist, obsessed with her cheating ex-husband, puts forwards her unlikely theories to the police, they help bring bold performances from both Oliver Farnworth as Scott Hipwell and Adam Jackson-Smith as Tom Watson.

Utterly gripping, assisted by sound effects and clever lighting, it all adds to the atmosphere taking us inexorably and ever onwards to an exciting and worrying climax..

This time there are no delays and the train arrives ‘bang’ on time…