Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Brief Encounter - Richmond Theatre

Brief Encounter by Noel Coward
Adaptor/Director: Emma Rice
Reviewer: Diane Higgins

Kneehigh Theatre's production of Noel Coward’s ‘Brief Encounter’, adapted and directed by Emma Rice, brilliantly combines the original Coward script, interspersed with performances of other Coward songs and prose with additional fantastic and evocative visual and sound effects.

Written in the pre-war Britain of the late 1930’s, Coward’s play is a sensitive portrayal of two happily married people who meet by chance, become acquainted and rapidly fall in love. Their brief relationship, as suggested by the title, tests their moral courage and ultimately changes their lives.

Before the start of the play and at the end of the interval we were subtly entertained by the talented musicians and ensemble with songs and instrumental music from the 30’s and 40’s. This helped to draw the audience’s attention into the time period of the play. They then went on to seamlessly link the evening’s performance together, with great skill and immaculate timing.

The first couple in the story are Laura, a wife and mother, played by Hannah Yelland, and Alec, a doctor, played by Milo Twomey. Laura and Alec’s class and position in 1930’s society dictates how they should behave and come to terms with their emotions, behaving with decency and respect. Through their performances, Hannah Yelland and Milo Twomey perfectly create the necessary pathos and poignancy we have come to associate with Brief Encounter.

Two other couples form part of the story and in this production, although the original Coward dialogue is the same, their performances feature more prominently than before. Joseph Alessi as Albert with Annette McLaughlin as Myrtle and Christopher Rice as Stanley with Beverley Rudd as Beryl brought a lovely balance of humour to their performances, which enhanced the whole production. Beverley Rudd, in particular, had all the audience ‘in stitches’ with her dialogue and her on stage antics.
The stage design gave us exactly an authentic1930’s setting. The remarkable use of the ‘1945 film’ projected on to a background screen, linked to he sounds of steam trains and iconic music was amazing. Vertical slits in the screen allowed the actors to move in and out from the stage into the film and back again, a kind of time travel. Use of puppets as Laura’s children was very interesting and cleverly carried out. Much praise must go to the director and adapter for these innovations.

When the original film of ‘Brief Encounter’ was released in 1945, to a British public, who had just come through six years of war, it must have reflected the experiences of so many peoples’ brief encounters. Everyone appreciated its romance and poignancy.

This was a truly excellent, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable performance. with its mix of pathos, much humour and music a more enjoyable experience than the original. Great entertainment, not to be missed!!
Brief Encounter runs at the Richmond Theatre until Sat 11th April 2009
frontpage hit counter