Tag Archives: Matt Concannon

REVIEW: The Girl on the Train – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

British writer Paula Hawkins’ 2015 novel The Girl on the Train became a runaway best-seller around the globe, with a Hollywood movie adaptation following on its heels quickly a year later, albeit with a re-setting to New York instead of London. Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel’s 2018 stage version restores it to its original location and a somewhat less glossy and more realistic environment.

Binge drinking Rachel Watson passes her old house and her ex-husband and his new life (and wife and baby) every day as she commutes to work. While her attention is initially on ex Tom and trophy wife Anna, whom she harassed relentlessly, it strays to a house a few doors down where she fixates on “Jason & Jess” as she’s dubbed them and their seemingly perfect life. Little does she know that “Jess” is far from happy. When she wakes up one day bloody and injured with little recollection of what has happened she finds out “Jess”, actually Megan, is missing. She inveigles her way into the investigation, befriending Megan’s husband Scott and visiting her psychotherapist Dr. Abdic under false pretences. As Rachel slowly sobers, her memories become gradually clearer and there’s a whole school of red herrings before we come to the shocking conclusion.

Unlike the book and movie, the lion’s share of the action takes place in Rachel’s hovel of an apartment, it’s more The Girl in the Flat rather than The Girl on the Train but that said, the design by James Cotterill is clever enough to portray multiple locations including Megan and Scott’s and Tom and Anna’s homes, a police station, a psychiatrist’s office, the crime scene and the train itself. There a few sound and lighting effects thrown into the mix to keep the interest.

It’s must be said that it is a little slow to get into gear, possibly necessitated by the establishment of the complex layers of the story, but the tension does ramp up in the second half. Where it also differs from both previous incarnations of the story is the frequent black humour, which provides light relief in this dark tale. The scenes between Rachel and sardonic D.I. Gaskell (John Dougall) are particularly well-played.

TV veteran Samantha Womack is Rachel, and delivers a well-measured, low-key performance, keeping it entirely within the bounds of believability in her portrayal of a woman on the brink. There are no cheap histrionics here, and certainly no glamour, much to Womack’s credit. It is refreshing to know that in having a star like Womack, the producers haven’t traded talent for ticket sales. She is ably supported by a sure-footed ensemble cast.

Another question that deserves addressing (almost the elephant in the room) for those who have read the book or seen the movie – does it affect the enjoyment knowing the sting on the tail? Not entirely. While knowing what’s coming, it is still sufficiently interesting to see how it has been achieved.

Runs until 20 April 2019 | Image: Manuel Harlan

REVIEW: Flashdance The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It’s astonishing to think that 1983’s Flashdance The Movie, took over $100 million at the box office. That level of success, coupled with the fact that nostalgia for the 80s sells (as evidenced by never-ending tours of Dirty Dancing and shows such as Fame, Footloose, 9 to 5 and The Wedding Singer), means it’s no surprise that it has resurfaced, in a shiny new production for 2017.

Unlike the frothy film, with its flimsy, escapist storyline and scenes that play like a series of 1980s MTV music videos, the musical pads out the simplistic screenplay with numerous sub-plots in order to add some depth and grit (pole-dancing clubs, shattered dreams of stardom, drug abuse…)

Alex(andra) Owens (Joanne Clifton), welder by day, exotic dancer at Harry’s Bar by night, longs to pursue her dream of becoming a trained, professional dancer. In her day job at the steelworks she catches the eye of Nick Hurley (Ben Adams), the son of the mill owner. Romance, inevitably ensues, as do a series of somewhat predictable hurdles until this working class gal does good.

The plot is similar to British classic Billy Elliot that followed a few years later (only this time done with a lot more class). There’s the promise of a rousing story of working class, female empowerment here, but it’s all a bit wishy-washy to be inspirational.

Joanne Clifton is casting gold – a national favourite from her stint in Strictly Come Dancing and a member of a British dancing family dynasty. Clifton astonished many with her decision to leave one of the top UK TV shows, especially in her year as reigning champion, but she is entirely justified in doing so. She has a bright future beyond the small screen (and away from a show whose producers are notoriously fickle at hiring and firing even the most popular of dancers). Unlike her recent role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Clifton’s voice gets a chance to really soar and her impressive American accent remains on-point throughout. It would be wonderful to see her in a show that truly showcases her considerable theatre skills.

In support, former A1 singer Ben Adams turns in a commendable performance as boss and love-interest Nick. The duo between Clifton and Adams Here and Now is an absolute corker.

The ensemble are strong and their effort is palpable, even in the auditorium. However, they are let down a bit by some less than scintillating choreography, which in the confined playing space, looks cramped.

If it’s an evening of undemanding froth you’re after then Flashdance is the show for you. Get out the lycra and leggings and catch it as it tours the UK.