Entertainment & Arts

The Girl on the Train: Jill Halfpenny to star in stage premiere

Jill Halfpenny Image copyright PA
Image caption Jill Halfpenny won an Olivier Award in 2011

Actress Jill Halfpenny is to star in the first stage adaptation of best-selling novel The Girl on the Train.

The former EastEnders star and Strictly Come Dancing winner will play Rachel, the troubled woman who watches other people's lives from her commuter train.

Paula Hawkins' thriller has sold almost 20 million copies and was turned into a film starring Emily Blunt in 2016.

The stage premiere will take place at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds from 12 May. A UK tour is planned.

Halfpenny is best-known for playing Kate Mitchell in EastEnders from 2002 to 2005, and for appearing in Waterloo Road, In the Club and Three Girls. She was the Strictly Come Dancing champion in 2004.

On stage, she won an Olivier Award in 2011 for her role in Legally Blonde, and played Roxie Hart in Chicago in the West End.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Halfpenny is following in the footsteps of Emily Blunt, who starred in the film version

Halfpenny said she was relishing the prospect of playing a character who is "completely flawed".

"What I love about the book is that every character has done something they think perhaps morally they shouldn't have done," she told BBC News.

"So no-one can stand up and say, 'I am completely innocent'. So I guess it's about embracing the flaws."

Actors sometimes have a tendency to want their characters to be liked, she said.

"And Rachel's not always likeable, and that's OK," she added.

"I think you want to try to convey to an audience that we're all flawed, we're all messed up, and if you don't think you are, then you're probably lying to yourself."

Going to 'dramatic places'

She added: "It's about saying, let's accept that none of us can take the moral high ground, and people do make mistakes, but hopefully you can get yourself out of them."

West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director James Brining said Halfpenny has an "accessible quality" but can also "go to dramatic places".

He said the themes of the book "really resonated" with the types of story the theatre wants to tell.

"It's got a really strong female protagonist, it's written by a woman and adapted by a woman, and it's got a female character with agency at the heart of it," he said.

The cast will also include Adam Best, Sarah Ovens, Florence Hall and Theo Ogundipe.

The play will run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 9 June. The tour dates are currently being arranged, Brining said.

The novel has been adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, and will be directed by Joe Murphy, whose most recent success was Woyzeck, starring John Boyega at London's Old Vic.

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