Interview: Jill Halfpenny | Living North

Interview: Jill Halfpenny

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The Girl on the Train
The television and stage star (and top Geordie lass) is taking on the role of Rachel Watson in the world’s first stage production of The Girl On The Train at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse. We chat to her ahead of the big premiere

Rachel Watson’s only escape is the perfect couple she watches through the train window every day. They look happy and so in love – or so it appears. When Rachel learns that the woman she’s been secretly watching has suddenly disappeared, she finds herself as a witness and, more importantly, a suspect in a thrilling mystery: in which she will face bigger revelations than she could ever have anticipated.

Adapted from Paula Hawkins’ internationally-bestselling novel, The Girl On The Train comes to the stage for the first time ever at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from 12th May. We caught up with star of stage and screen Jill Halfpenny, who is taking on the lead role of disillusioned commuter Rachel.

 

So how are rehearsals going?

Really good, very intense! There’s a lot going on, but it’s all good. We’re all having fun.

What was it about the story that made you want to be involved in the production?

I think it was the character. I really loved how complex she was, and I loved the fact that we’re getting into an era now where we’re going to start portraying women that we know –and not women that are just either a complete mess or completely glamourous. Aren’t we all just a bit in-between? Can’t we all mess up and do things that we regret and also look fabulous and look s**t? That’s all the women that I know. I just thought that it’s so nice just to play somebody that lives in that grey area, which is the area that we all live in. You know, no-one’s black or white.

I bet that’s refreshing in your line of work.

Really refreshing. And to play somebody who’s morally questionable – not to me, but to an audience, perhaps.

Rachel’s a pretty dark character to play, though. How do you get into the role?

I almost feel like it’s easier to get into those roles than the lighter ones!

I don’t know what that says about you!

Exactly! They’re just more understandable to me. I don’t think Rachel lives in the depths of depravity. She’s just somebody who has had five or six really bad years in her life and, through those five or six years, a lot of things have happened – she’s made some questionable decisions. But that can happen with anyone. I think that quite a lot of people find themselves coming out of a really bad relationship and they look back on that period in their lives when it’s all over and think: ‘Wow – for five or six years I went a bit mental!’ But I think that’s part of it, isn’t it? You’re hurt, you’re in pain, you explore some things, you kick back at some things, you act out of resentment. But that’s how you evolve. I think that’s how you become who you are later on in life. If you don’t take any risks and nothing bad ever happens to you, then how do you change?

Exactly. So what’s life like for you in the run-up to a show?

Sleepless nights! Your brain is switched on to the max, but you’re also absolutely on the floor with tiredness.

What’s it like working in theatre compared to working in TV?

Having a live audience there always feels exciting and there’s a lot more, I guess, danger? If that’s the right word. Because you can mess up! But I don’t really have a preference, I just love both. Usually if I’ve done one for a long time I’ll miss the other, and then vice versa.

Finally, can you sum up the stage version of The Girl On The Train in three words?

Intense. Exciting. Thrilling.

 

The world premiere of The Girl on the Train plays at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds from 12th May–9th June.

Book your tickets at: www.wyp.org.uk

Or call: 0113 213 7700

Published in: May 2018

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