SAMANTHA Womack and Oliver Farnworth have just come off stage to rapturous applause following a matinee performance of The Girl of the Train.

In a less than three hours time they will be back in the theatre keeping the audience on the edge of their seat with the tense thriller based on the best-selling book by Paula Hawkins.

For both, the play represents a major challenge but it’s one which they are clearly revelling in.

Samantha, who is best known for her time in EastEnders playing Ronnie Mitchell, is the central character, Rachel Watson. Her life is pretty much a shambles, her hair is unwashed, she’s hitting the bottle at every opportunity. The only real pleasure she gets is her daily commute which allows her to look into the house of a woman who it appears has the perfect life.

When that woman is found murdered, Rachel may have witnessed something vital but she also becomes a possible suspect.

Having spent the best part of the show on stage you’d think that Samantha would be looking forward to lunch but tempting as it may be, a big blow out is not an option.

“I like to play Rachel edgy,” she said. “If I’m too comfortable I don’t feel right. So I like to go on stage hungry or have a couple of coffees so that I’m a bit wired.

“I can play Rachel with the filters off and I really love that about her.”

Oliver, Andy Carver in Coronation Street, plays the murdered woman’s husband Scott.

“Rachel wears her heart on her sleeve beautifully,” he said. “In spite of everything that is happening to and around her she doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She is very matter of fact about it all.”

In taking one of the most successful novels of recent years out on tour - The Girl on the Train was also made into a movie starring Emily Blunt - many in the audience will be familiar with the story.

“I loved the book when I read it long before the chance to play Rachel came up,” said Samantha. “But I didn’t read it again as we were rehearsing.

“I didn’t want it to colour things, to affect how I played Rachel.

“The play is very much the bible,” added Oliver. “That is what we are presenting. If doesn’t matter what happened in the film or the book because that’s not relevant. to the stage production.”

Thrillers on stage can be tricky beasts but the cast of The Girl on the Train pull it of brilliantly.

“When people hear thriller they think of Agatha Christie,” said Samantha. “This is nothing like an Agatha Christie. It’s very real, very visceral.”

Samantha is particularly enjoying the freedom she has with the role.

“I’ve always given myself something to rail against in every job I’ve done,” she said. “Whether it’s being a bit more rebellious or fighting against something, it’s just making the process a bit more sticky. It’s more interesting that way. If it’s too generic or too well behaved then you don’t get the good stuff.

“In the past I’ve either got that right or very, very wrong,” she laughed. “But I’d create some kind of drama because I was trying to get something juicy out of it.

“I think of all the people that I loved watching on stage or film and they were always the renegades – Olly Reed, Peter O Toole, Maggie Smith. They were people who didn’t conform.”

Oliver added: “With all the best artists whether they are performers or rock stars there is a little element of chaos there. If you are just doing the same thing every night an audience can smell that a mile away.”

The cast have worked hard to make the production very naturalistic; characters talk over each other, conversations overlap and every one of them has their flaws.

“We are all dark,” said Samantha. “The nice thing about this production is that there are no goodies or baddies, everyone is complicated and messy and flawed - just like in real life.”

Oliver added: “It’s about human beings being very confused which is something I think we can all relate to.”

“Rachel isn’t clean and doesn’t scrub up well,” said Samantha, “but she’s like Bridget Jones. We see her flaws and can relate to them. She’ll have a drink, she’ll eat whatever’s left in the fridge. She’s a real true female.”

The Girls on the Train opens at The Lowry, Salford Quays on Monday which means a welcome return for both Samantha and Oliver to Manchester.

“I love that whole area, there’s a great buzz to it,” said Samantha who was last at the Lowry in The Addams Family.

Oliver added: “Manchester is home for me and Salford was work for three years so I’m looking forward to seeing my Corrie family at the show.”

* The Girl on the Train, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Monday, April 1 to Saturday, April 6. Details from