The Girl on the Train is a story based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins and Dreamwork’s film. This breathtaking yet sorrowful psychological thriller reflects the prejudices of the ‘brave new world’ in regard to perfect marriage, gender stereotypes and racial discrimination. It also explores loneliness, constant mental struggle, domestic abuse, alienation or physical and psychological traumas as a big part of today’s social life.
Protagonist Rachel is going through a psychologically demanding period of her life. Burdened by infertility, divorce and alcohol addiction, she suffers from the sorrow of the mundane and longs to the escape to a perfect life. She sees this life all around her, that of her ex-husband and his new wife, as well as that of the attractive, passionate couple she observes from a train window. Rachel’s memory is inconsistent; she struggles to differentiate between reality and fantasy, creating an illusion of a utopian existence that she projects onto these couples. Suddenly, the girl who Rachel has been observing from the train is found dead.
The characters of the play become involved in the unfolding mystery of the girl’s death, relishing the opportunity to escape from mundanity and to become part of the investigation. A thriller, the play is absorbing and intense. This intensity, however, is neutralised by the characters’ humour interpolated throughout the performance to spread smiles amongst the audience.
The great interest that the characters show in the unfolding the mystery story captures the imperfection of human lives, suggesting the idea of ‘a missing bit’ that everyone needs to reach a state of happiness and satisfaction. The choice of the setting creates a unity between the storyline and the visual aspect of the play. For instance, black holes make up a huge part of the set, reinforcing the theme of the aforementioned imperfection.
Furthermore, the play aims to present social media as something that feeds our sense of imperfection, planting and cultivating the seeds of the ‘missing bits’ of our lives. Alienation, mental struggles and the low self-esteem of Rachel are constantly kindled by social media. She is costumed in dark clothes and lives in a messy flat, a life in contrast to those of others who live, it seems, utopian lives in the perfect outfits and ideal apartments. Such a setting reinforces the idea that people see their imperfections at hand, but others’ exciting lives at a distance through the lens of social media, symbolised by a train window, through which protagonist observes and judges.
With its extraordinary performances, a set that metaphorically interweaves with the plot and absorbing story-line, the play reinforces the idea that we all struggle with finding passions to dedicate our lives to and seeking right people to love and stick with. It aims to show that our memory and social experiences are sometimes distorted by the illusions we create, which lead to low self-esteem and self-destruction. However, unlike the tragic ending of another famous story of a woman on a train, Anna Karenina, the play ends on a positive note leaving the audience with a hope of seeing ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and finding the ‘missing bit.’
The Girl on the Train
Image: Capital Theatres