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Samantha Womack stars in The Girl on the Train

Posted on 2 May 2019

Following its hugely successful West End stage debut in 2018, Paula Hawkins’ nail-biting thriller The Girl on the Train embarks on a new UK tour this year, pulling into the Belgrade Theatre 13-18 May.

EastEnders favourite Samantha Womack stars as Rachel Watson in this edge-of-your-seat production, the character famously portrayed by Emily Blunt on the big screen in 2016. It’s a demanding role for any actor – even more so in a full-length stage production, performing in front of a live audience.

“There are about 70 pages of dialogue for me to learn,” she says. “It’s like playing Hamlet. I never shut up!”

Whereas the original novel (which has sold an incredible 20 million copies worldwide) the narrative is split between the characters of Megan, Anna and Rachel, in the play, the focus remains squarely on Samantha as the unhappy Rachel. In fact, throughout the entire show, she never leaves the stage.

“That terrifies me,” she admits. “I don’t always take things in at first and it wasn’t until the middle of rehearsals that it hit me that, ‘Oh it’s basically just one long scene for me.’ I never get to leave the stage and regroup. One scene leads me straight into another and it’s like a dance.”

The Girl on the Train

Added to the sheer amount of lines and action to learn is also the challenge of delivering them effectively. An alcoholic, Rachel suffers from memory blackouts and struggles to piece her own story together.

“It’s a really hard thing to do. 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 her brain goes.”

At the same time though, there’s something oddly appealing about the freedom this affords her. Uninhibited by the self-censoring that holds us back when sober, Rachel becomes a compelling anti-heroine, fighting her own corner as well as she can.

“There’s something about Rachel’s devil-may-care rebellion that appeals to lots of people. She says what you shouldn’t say, she thinks what you shouldn’t think, she’s a victim of circumstance and you have sympathy for her because of everything she’s been through.”

The Girl on the Train

While she remains best known across the UK for her long-running role as Ronnie Mitchell in EastEnders, Samantha Womack has lately been enjoying the challenge of taking up more stage roles, The Girl on the Train following hot on the heels of her stint as Morticia in a major UK tour of The Addams Family musical.

“Ten years ago when I went into EastEnders I was younger and ready to embrace the unknown. The older I get, the scarier it is, although I’m learning to enjoy it again. From the minute I’m on stage it can’t be edited. I love the immediacy of theatre. I love being on a train and not getting off until it’s done.”

While newcomers to the story are guaranteed a gripping evening filled with shocking twists and turns, even fans of the book can look forward to some surprises.

“Yes, we’re replicating the story, but there are changes and nuances that are very different,” Sam explains. “I hope that by the time they leave the theatre, people have been shaken about a bit.”

The Girl on the Train shows at the Belgrade Theatre 13-18 May. Tickets are available to book now.

The Girl on the Train