Emma Rice’s adaptation of Brief Encounter certainly adds a fresh look at the 1945 British romantic film directed by David Lean. Which had originally been adapted from the Noël Coward play of 1936 Still Life.
Love works in mysterious ways. Especially temptation and unforbidden love. Laura Jesson (Hanora Kamen) rushes into the train cafe after coal grit gets blown into her eye by a passing heavy train. Dr. Alec Harvey (Jammy Kasongo) rushes to help her claiming that he is a doctor. This is where the fated couple begins the ill-fated affair.
The stage is encircled by two curtains drawn and opened throughout the performance adding intrigue, and mystery and allowing scene changes to take place unseen. The main focus for me was the use of the curtains to add depth to the effects of the trains rushing in and out of the station and the rushing water, which represented for me the speed and velocity in which the affair was developing.
Be ready to suspend your disbelief when Jesson returns home one evening to find her children arguing. Fred Jesson (Samuel Morgan-Grahame) raised a few laughs from the auditorium as a fully bearded young child. However, the tantrums were uncannily realistic.
Setting the majority of the action within the station cafe at Milford Station. Tea is generously poured, buns eaten, and all the while, the trains rush past outside. It’s a reminder of the character and experience train traveling used to hold. The personal touch has sadly been lost over time and replaced by expensive coffee chain booths on many platforms.
Each of the station staff had their romantic connections taking place, too. From Myrtle Bagot (Nicola Bryan), the confessed “no good at love” cafe manager to Stanley (Luke Thornton), the love-struck station porter. Everyone had their own “Brief Encounter” taking shape too.
The casting is superb, the musicians skilled, and extremely entertaining. A different production of the play from the filmed version I have briefly watched. It has been modernised and added a layer of entertainment value that befits this classic story of married strangers becoming lovers.
For more information on this play and future productions at the Salisbury Playhouse please use the link below.
Photo credit to Marc Brenner.