Birmingham Rep - 29th Sep - 20th Oct
Director - Emma Rice
Reviewed by Jennie Philpott
Award winning director, Emma Rice, has masterfully adapted this production from the screenplay ‘Brief Encounter’, and the stage play ‘Still Life’ both by Noel Coward and bought it to Birmingham’s famous REP theatre.
This play portrays both the stark simplicity and deep complexity of love. This tale of two star crossed lovers, each leading their own separate lives, is set off against two further relationships, one, simple and frivolous, the other purely sexual. Set in 1930’s England, the story follows the brief yet intense, growing relationship between two respected members of society and their struggle for love against the constraints of their families. Their relationship develops in a quaint station café, the place of their first encounter, and where the story continues to unfold. This is juxtaposed with the other, more superficial romances - one of which involves a dippy café worker, Beryl (wonderfully performed by Amanda Lawrence) and her playful admirer (Stuart McLoughilin, whose singing throughout was outstanding).
Right from the start, the stage was bought to life as a classic 1930s cinema, using innovative projection and lighting techniques, that set the tone for the rest of the play. Comic characters created an air of enjoyment and successfully involved the audience right from the off. Although this play was essentially one of heart wrenching love, it contained various comic moments, many of which relied heavily on the original use of props - including an outrageous balloon dance!
The set was relatively simple but effective and was well used by all characters. It including a slag heap, that was set aside for the duration of the play, that the musicians performed on. This effectively bought the musicians to life as their very own characters within the story. The music was a large part of this production, using songs to portray deep feelings and ones of superficiality alike.
One of the highlights of the play was when Alec (performed by Tristan Sturrock) and Laura (Naomi Frederick) had their deepest feelings of love displayed for all to see, through their physical flight above the stage, whilst showered with shards of falling silver. This knee-high production comes highly recommended as you are likely to see your own feelings in one, or all, of the relationships portraying the different stages of love!
Photos by Manuel Harlon, Top: Naomi Frederick (laura) & Tristan Sturrock (Alec) Middle: Amanda Lawrence (Beryl) & Tamzin Griffen (Myrtle)
Brief Encounter runs at the REP until 20th October then goes to the WYP for more information visit http://www.kneehigh.co.uk/html/brief_dates.html