Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 11 October 2013
Brief Encounter, Kneehigh, Oct 11, 2013 ****
Kneehigh, Melbourne Festival Adapted from Noel Coward by Emma Rice Atheneaum Theatre, Oct 11 to 24, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **** Review also published in Herald Sun online on Sun,Oct 13, & in print on Mon, Oct 14, 2013. KH
Laura (Michelle Nightingale) and Alec (Jim
Sturgeon) in Brief Encounter
Fans of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter, a
romantic movie about an illicit affair, may think this stage version dilutes
the poignant drama with too much playful comedy – but it is hearty
Director, Emma Rice’s
adaptation takes an inventive theatrical leap from the 1945 film to the modern
stage, telling the story of hapless lovers, Laura (Michelle Nightingale) and
Alec (Jim Sturgeon), through cinematic projections, live performance, comedy
Alec and Laura are both
married with families, but their first, chance encounter in a railway station
cafe during 1938 leads to weekly meetings and then to a burgeoning, passionate,
but impossible love.
Nightingale and Sturgeon replicate
the studied, elevated acting style, refined vowels, romantic dialogue and very
English social reserve of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnston in the film, as they
step warily around each other until they are helplessly in love.
cunningly creates the illusion of Laura and Alec crossing from stage into film
when they step through the projection screen to magically appear inside the
on-screen train (film design: Jon Driscoll, Gemma Carrington).
In a deceptively simple
design (Neil Murray) resembling a shambolic, ‘30s railway station, six talented
actors establish swift changes of location and time using clever theatrical
devices and rapid scene changes.
The aching, emotional
truth and intimacy of Laura and Alec’s dialogue are balanced by imaginative
theatrical physicality and comic business that elicit cheers from the audience.
The tenderness and agony
of the couple’s hopeless passion is the heart of the film but, in this stage
version, it is counterpointed by an increased focus on two comical couples from
the railway cafe.
With her hilariously
affected vowels, Annette McLaughlin plays Myrtle, the brusque cafe manager who
is courted by Albert, portrayed with frisky cheerfulness by Joe Alessi.
Young Stanley, played
with brazen callowness by Damon Daunno, pursues bouncy, pert Beryl chirpily depicted
by Kate Cheel.
Accompanied by live
musicians (Dave Brown, James Gow) and lilting harmonies from the cast, Daunno’s
fine, melodic voice does justice to a selection of Coward’s distinctive songs.
The Coward’s songs include:
Mad About The Boy, Any Little Fish, No Good At Love, Go Slow Johnnie, which accompanies
a seductively slow motion undressing scene, and Sturgeon sings an achingly sad
version of Room With a View.
Although the stage
production lacks the depth and breadth of Alec and Laura’s relationship and the
dark atmosphere of the film, it cannot be judged against the movie because they
are different animals for different times, venues and audiences. Enjoy it for
what it is.
By Kate Herbert
Emma Rise Designer: Neil Murray
Original Music: Stu Baker
Alessi, Kate Cheel, Damon Daunno, Annette McLaughlin, Michelle Nightingale, Ji