Preview: Vertigo audiences to take mysterious ride along with the Girl on the Train

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It’s been quite a journey for Rachel Watson, the heroine of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, and it’s nowhere near being over.

Rachel, an alcoholic who suffers blackouts and severe memory loss, begins investigating a murder she might just be a part of.

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The novel was published in 2015 and, within six years, had sold more than 23 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful contemporary thrillers. The 2016 film version starring Emily Blunt grossed $173 million and won her best actress nominations for an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globes. It was adapted for the stage in 2018 by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, and has toured the U.K. ever since. Vertigo Theatre is presenting the Canadian premiere of The Girl on the Train until April 14.

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Lauren Brotman stars as Rachel who rides the train each day to spy on her former husband Tom (Tyrell Crews) and his new wife Anna (Anna Cummer). She also becomes obsessed with the couple’s neighbours, Megan (Filsan Dualeh) and Scott (Stafford Perry), who she believes are the perfect couple, but as Rachel soon learns, no one is perfect.

Brotman says she is not intimidated by the popularity of the book and film because “those two versions of Rachel’s story are vastly different than the journey she takes in the play. Even if someone is familiar with the book or film, they are in for a very different kind of experience.

“As Rachel, I never leave the stage. I bring the other characters into my world and I go into theirs. Hanne Loosen’s set, Brendan Briceland’s projection designs and Narda McCarroll’s lighting are all incredibly imaginative. To watch them create the worlds of the play will be a journey in itself for the audience. Rachel’s world is spiralling out of control. To solve the murder, she has to try to stop the world from spinning in her mind, and she takes the audience on that same journey. The play is extremely fast-paced, but you still get all the drama that was so important in the film.”

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Lauren Brotman and Filsan Dualeh in Vertigo Theatre’s Girl on the Train. Photo by Fifth Wall Media cal

Brotman says this version of The Girl on the Train is a whodunit as well as a psychological thriller.

“There is a murder so there is a killer, and we have to learn who. All the characters in the story are flawed in some way so they are all suspects, including Rachel because of her blackouts and memory loss. Because of her alcoholism, she is also an unreliable narrator. We don’t know how much to believe of what she says or thinks she saw. When her memory does start to return, things are very disjointed. This makes for such intriguing scenes with Rachel and the detective (Jamie Konchak) who is investigating the case.

The Girl on the Train is directed by Vertigo Theatre’s artistic director Jack Grinhaus who is Brotman’s husband.

“Jack and I first worked together 20 years ago when we created a fringe play called Rougher Trade. We have tried to do at least one project a year together ever since. This will be our first collaboration in Calgary and we’re so excited because, even in the short time we have been in Calgary, we are really beginning to feel we’re a part of the theatre community.”

Brotman says they have learned how to juggle their personal and professional lives.

“We have set boundaries. When we get in the car after a rehearsal, we use the ride home to decompress. We’re very different people when we enter our home. We leave the director and actor roles for the next day and the rehearsal hall.”

Vertigo Theatre is presenting the Canadian premiere of The Girl on the Train until April 14.

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