Preview: The Girl on the Train

A new stage adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestselling thriller The Girl on the Train promises to capture more fans for the story turned cultural phenomenon

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When her psychological thriller novel The Girl on the Train was published in 2015, former financial journalist Paula Hawkins had no expectations that it would turn into something of a cultural phenomenon. Yet this story of Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee who creates an imaginary life for the couple living in a house she passes every day on the train, dominated bestseller lists around the world for months on end. The inevitable Hollywood film version, starring Emily Blunt, appeared in 2016 and was also seen by millions.

So when Joe Murphy was asked to direct a stage adaptation of the murder mystery for West Yorkshire Playhouse, he admits it was an intimidating prospect.

“Whenever material like this has connected with so many people it’s a really exciting challenge for the storyteller to capture even more people in a different medium,” he says. “So we’ve really returned to the source material, the novel, to see what it was we felt had connected with all those millions of people, why Paula’s book had thrilled them so.”

The writers of the stage adaptation, Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, have focused it on Rachel, played by Jill Halfpenny (EastEnders, Waterloo Road), rather than any of the other point of view characters in both novel and film.

“Stage time is slower than time in the book, and we can never do things as literally as they can with film. Theatre is more of a character-based, real-time medium, so this felt like a real opportunity to get into the heads of those characters that people had loved in the book in a more in-depth way,” Murphy explains.

“It’s about finding a way to still pack that emotional punch of what’s on the one hand a very intimate story about Rachel, what’s she’s gone through and her self-realisation, yet in other ways is quite a huge-scale story about a murder investigation… with a train, which is always going to be difficult on stage!”

When Dreamworks made the film of The Girl On The Train, Hawkins had no official say in how it turned out. For the stage production, Murphy confirms that “any changes we might have made, any adaptations, any artistic interventions have had the blessing of Paula”.

“We’re focusing on the story and the characters, trying not to second guess the audience, whilst also having a few bits and bobs in there that we hope will be an exciting and new twist or idea for those who know the way the book presents the characters.

“We’re certainly not trying to suggest that what we’re doing is definitive or take anything away from the way this book and these characters live in people’s imaginations and hearts. We’re just trying to say here’s another option, this is our version and we hope that it connects with yours.”

The Girl on the Train is at West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre, 12 May-9 June (

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