Sheffield theatre show The Girl on the Train: star Samantha Womack says role is 'a darker Bridget Jones'
Actress Samantha Womack says that her character Rachel in stage thriller The Girl on the Train is like a darker, more realistic version of Bridget Jones.
The play, which is at the Lyceum in Sheffield from June 24 to 29, has been adapted from Paula Hawkins' 2015 novel, which has sold more than two million copies worldwide.
A movie version released in 2016, starring Emily Blunt, got mixed reviews. Former EastEnders and Mount Pleasant star Samantha said: “People don’t want to come and see if it if they’ve seen the film.”
It was the novel that she loved. “The book is very well written. It grabs everyone’s attention, not because it’s a thriller, rather it’s a female who feels very relevant.
“She is gross and unruly and she is broken as well. She is also incredibly smart.
“She is all these things that women aren’t depicted as, as much any female character that I’ve played before.”
The story follows Rachel, a young woman whose personal life is a mess and has taken to fantasising about a couple she sees regularly through a train window as she passes their home.
Their life together looks idyllic but events take a disturbing turn.
Samantha said that Bridget Jones is a Hollywood fantasy of what British women are like, sweet and a bit eccentric, whereas Rachel has a much sharper edge to her.
“You see her get into some situations that Bridget Jones does and she has that self loathing and is losing out on relationships but it’s far darker. It’s the way that she’d be in secret.
“She has the darkest thoughts, contemplates suicide and falls back on hurting the new wife of her ex.
“She is everybody’s secret. I’ve got that little part of me that I never get to show people. That’s why she is really successful as a character.”
Samantha added: “She is probably the favourite character I’ve played now. She feels the most honest.
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“She is a drunk and alcoholic and is completely unfiltered.
“There’s something really satisfying about that, she’s not a sanitised girlfriend or safe wife.
“Ronnie Mitchell was a typical baddie but Rachel is closer to a real human being to me. That’s what’s grabbed people.”
There is one drawback, though, about such an intense role: “She’s exhausting. That’s the only problem. It’s like dipping your head into a blender for two hours.
“It’s not gradual. In her first scene she is vomiting into a pizza box, completely drunk.”
Samantha said that the play has really struck a chord with audiences. “Women are saying ‘oh my god, I feel like that. I feel black and full of self loathing and aggressive and nasty’.
“A lot of young kids, aged 17 to 18, are coming in to see it. They’re studying drama.
“They talk about the relevance of it because of the social media aspect.
“Rachel is looking through a window and they’re looking through their screens and talking about feeling isolated. It’s corrosive and coercive.”
Samantha, who has been seen at the Lyceum in The Adams Family musical and in pantomime, is excited that this show is going to the West End this summer.
She said that’s unheard of with a touring production and the play’s strength means it’s really forced its way in.
Lyceum box office: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk. Show website: www.girlonthetrainplay.com