5 Book-to-Stage Adaptations That We Love

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The Girl on the Train at The Lowry Theatre
Image © The Lowry via Flickr

A good book will leave you building up the characters in your head, imagining the scenes playing out in the forefront of your mind whilst the story progresses. This makes a film adaptation of a book a tricky thing to master, and whilst countless films have triumphed in the reworking, many have fallen flat on their face. However, free of the high budget, Hollywood expectations of film, stage adaptations of books offer a whole new creative opportunity to bring a book to life. We’ve had a look at our favourite book-to-stage transformations.

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train came out at a wonderful time for female mystery and crime fiction, three years after Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl graced the bookshelves of every female reader. It remained at the top of the New York Times Fiction Best Seller List for 13 consecutive weeks and has sold millions of copies since. The book is written from the point of view of three women: Rachel, Anna, and Megan, and follows their intertwined lives during, before and after Megan’s mysterious disappearance. Filled with twists and thrill, the book is a rollercoaster of a story. Following a much less successful film adaptation in 2016, The Girl on the Train is now touring the UK as a stage production. In contrast to the film, the play captures the tension and suspense that is so well written in the novel. Featuring a small but talented cast, theatres are left in chilling apprehension right until the very end. A must see for any fan of the book.

See this show in Manchester or Brighton, or click here to see a full list of locations.

Image credit: Manuel Harlan via The Lowry on Flickr

Matilda the Musical

Both children and adults will love this adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl novel Matilda. The book came out in 1988, and if you’ve never read it you will have no doubt seen the excellent 1996 film version starring Danny DeVito. The story follows young genius Matilda Wormwood, and the powers she develops whilst suffering the ignorant and cruel adults that exist around her. The book was adapted into a musical by the Royal Shakespeare Company and features original songs by Tim Minchin. It has won a multitude of awards and has been running at The Cambridge Theatre since 2011. The book is a treasured piece of many childhoods, and the stage show is considered a resounding success by a multitude of viewers. The show remains at The Cambridge Theatre until 2020 but is also touring across the UK.

To book tickets for the UK tour click here, and to book Lodon tickets click here.

Image credit: Roderick Eime via Flickr

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a must-read for both young adults and older readers. Its 1st person protagonist Christopher John Francis Boone struggles with ‘behavioural difficulties’, and records his mystery-solving mission after he finds his next-door neighbour’s dog dead in his front garden. Haddon stated in 2009 that the book is not about Asperger’s, but about difference, and seeing the world in a unique way. The stage show is a masterpiece in creative imagination, with the set design particularly standing out as impressive. Mirroring the mathematical and systematic workings of Christopher’s brain, the stage is a blank cube of graph paper in which the cast move around to create scenes and situations described in the book. The story is mapped out marvellously and is a great family play.

The show is only available in London, however is well worth the visit.

Image credit: The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time via Facebook

Les Misérables

Les Mis has been adapted to countless films and TV shows, but the musical version is the longest running West End musical, running continuously since 1985. Since then it has toured in 52 countries and has been performed in 22 languages, making it one of the most popular musicals of all time. Set in early 19th-century France, it is the story of Jean Valjean’s redemption after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is an absolute beast of literature, one of the longest books ever written at an overwhelming 1,500 pages in the English language. Whilst the play is a much-edited version of the original novel, it still maintains its main themes of moral philosophy, justice, and love (both romantic and familial). The songs are well known and remarkably moving, and we don’t see it coming to an end anytime soon.

To book tickets for the UK tour click here, and to book London tickets click here.

Image credit: Matthew Murphy via The Lowry on Flickr

The Woman in Black

Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black is heralded as the perfect Gothic horror story, a simple ghost story that's been scaring people since 1983. Arthur Kipps is a city lawyer who is sent to organise the affairs of the late Mrs Drablow, in her secluded and decrepit house across the Nine Lives Causeway. The play started as a low budget Christmas production in Scarborough, and saw such success that after two years it was on London’s West End, and has been there ever since. The show is famously extremely scary, described as a spine-chilling production, due to its manipulation of atmosphere, illusion and controlled horror. Where a film adaptation has the opportunities to use CGI and special effects to add thrill, a stage show relies entirely on production and performance, and The Woman In Black’s long standing popularity is a testament to the production value of the play.

To book tickets for the UK tour click here, and to book London tickets click here.

Image credit: The Woman in Black on Facebook