"Upholding Version of a Classic"
by Debra Hall for remotegoat on 07/02/18

From Coward’s one-act play ‘Still Life’ on which the film Brief Encounter was based, a forbidden love happens but is doomed not to last as the title suggests. From a chance meeting initially, Laura (married to the hugely patient and forgiving Fred) chooses to continually pursue her adulterous activities. The lunch dates and afternoons spent together with her lover, Alec make up the scenes. Happy times are short lived and often the mood turns to guilt and uncertainty followed by a long line of ‘miss you already’ goodbyes at the train station.

Fabulous multimedia inclusion in this play, the projection techniques by the designers and the scenic makers allow real life interaction with video techniques using black and white filming to give a real feel of that classic movie. With the pulling-in and pulling-out of the steam train carriages twinned with sound and visual effects to complement the constant arrival and departure of the steam trains. It’s a joy to see.

The writing allows for a depth of spirit to come from others away from the two key characters. Laura and Alec have to be somewhat flat; as any persons steeped in such a selfish carry-on would be seen to be from the outside world. So, the comedy and the musicality by the musicians and members of the ensemble are a deliberate and welcome contrast rather than a mood match of main characters played by Isabel Pollen and Jim Sturgeon. I have to mention that beautifully soft rendition of Coward’s ‘Go Slow, Johnny’ in the laid back solo singing and ukulele strumming of Jos Slovick in a stage setting that was so wonderfully atmospheric.

This play is based as much on the David Lean's film as it is on the work by the famous dramatist, so rarely does it work this way, but Emma Rice presents an upholding version of all the admired creativity and the credited film/stage production that has gone before.

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