Brief encounter play london review

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brief encounter play london review

Brief Encounter by Noël Coward

The simple story of an unconsummated love affair between a suburban doctor and a middle-class housewife, Brief Encounter can claim to be the most romantic film in British cinema.

Based by Noel Coward upon his 1936 short play Still Life, the screenplay conjures up the drab, emotionally restrained world of post-war Britain better than almost any other literary text.

It was nominated for an Oscar at the 1947 Academy Awards. Brief Encounter is perhaps the most moving and fully realized of all David Leans films.

This volume contains a specially commissioned introduction by Cowards biographer, Sheridan Morley.
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Published 01.07.2019

Brief Encounter (final scene)

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Noël Coward

Brief Encounter review – Emma Rice's bittersweet romance is a great night out

Blurring the boundaries even more now is the return of Kneehigh's stage version of David Lean's film Brief Encounter , which is actually playing in a cinema multiplex on the Haymarket, a venue that intriguingly originally opened as a theatre in before becoming a movie house. And the one-off factory of theatrical wizardry that is Emma Rice offers an utterly enveloping stage show that both honours and respects the film origins of its material, with characters stepping from the stage right into a black and white projected version of themselves, much as Woody Allen had his characters do in his masterpiece The Purple Rose of Cairo except there they were stepping from film into film. But that's not the only sense of playfulness and inventiveness, exhilaration and wonder on offer. As Rice demonstrated just last year with the original musical Romantics Anonymous at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse which was shamefully overlooked for the Olivier Awards , she is incurably romantic. Even if, in the case of Brief Encounter , there's something illicit and dangerous about the brief encounter between a married mother of two and the handsome doctor who removes some grit from her eye at the station and sets them on a whirlwind of regular Thursday afternoon lunch and cinema outings. Rice articulates both the excitement and pain of an initially innocent encounter that turns passionate with a fierce theatricality. She says of its first incarnation in a programme note, "Defying usual theatre norms, it was neither a play nor a musical, a comedy or a tragedy.

The symbiotic relationship between cinema and theatre was once again highlighted when Noel Coward changed the name of his play Still Life to Brief Encounter after the success of the David Lean film. When Emma Rice first adapted the play a decade ago, she celebrated the enduring power and appeal of movies. The changes she has made to that production for this outing demonstrate how theatre can be more dynamic and change over the years to match the times. Times change and so does our notion of a romance and what is and not an acceptable partnership between two people. Today this seems to fall into the trap of believing the audience will only have sympathy with a woman having an affair if we see what a dimwit her husband is, and the theatrical nature of motherhood bringing up kids no smarter than puppets. A braver updating may have given another perspective. Like failed lovers returning for past glories, this production struggles to reignite the flame.

Married doctor Alec meets the equally married Laura at a station buffet. The uptight middle-class manners of Laura and Alec contrast with the bawdy antics of manager Myrtle Lucy Thackeray and her assistant Beryl Beverly Rudd. Isabel Pollen perfectly conveys her desperation, and Jim Sturgeon catches the understated gallantry of Alec, the sort of man who always has an impeccably clean handkerchief. Please wait Cannabis Debate. Future London. The Londoner.

And we should be happy that she did.
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The Rice restorative. Someone really ought to bottle it. While it would have been easy to gently mock the clipped English restraint of the central love story, Rice never once goes down that road. She gives the relationship the space and weight it deserves. After he removes a bit of grit from her eye, they embark on a love affair. Trips to the pictures and the boating lake quickly develop into something more passionate.

There is no overkill in a production always self-aware that this is a stage version of a story that most people are familiar with from the film. From the moment you enter the cinema — itself once a theatre — Rice plays cunningly and with great joie de vivre on the differences between the two media and cuts one seamlessly into the other. One of the things it does very well is to contrast the banality of everyday life and the epic emotions on a cinematic scale that smoulder beneath the buttoned-up facades of Alec and Laura. Particularly Laura: stiffly coiffured, her oddly endearing mixture of elegance and awkwardness is given real inner life with a series of filmed underwater sequences that suggest the part of herself she has smothered to be the dutiful wife and mother, and that is reawakened through the affair. She may go back to her husband, the decent but deeply boring Fred Dean Nolan , but she has unlocked a secret part of herself, an emotional hinterland where she is always wild and free. In the movie the lower-class characters provide a comic relief; here they are fully fledged and bursting with life, sex and song, offering a marked contrast to the guilt-ridden middle-class fumblings of Laura and Alec. Slovick is an outstanding musical talent bringing a mixture of vigour and poignancy to Stanley.



  1. Allison J. says:

    Empire Cinema, London Back in the West End after 10 years, Rice's heart- stopping adaptation cuts seamlessly from theatre to cinema.

  2. Beltauviden1988 says:

    Clearly not one to sulk into her P45, Emma Rice has opted to fill the time between her controversial departure from the Globe and the launch of.

  3. Alexandrin G. says:

    We need your help…

  4. Judith J. says:

    Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

  5. Madison O. says:

    ‘Brief Encounter’ review | Theatre in London

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