I’ve been commuting since I was 12 years old, getting the bus to school, 2.9miles away (that 0.1 is very important given that it disqualified me from the free bus pass that the elusive and illustrious 3 mile commute brought you).
Buses gave way to trains once starting uni and then work, and I seriously think after daily commutes including Leeds, Liverpool and Wigan from the Manchester ‘burbs, I should be decorated with some sort of honour – bravery through adversity or something…
These days I’m back working in Manchester city centre, delivered there through the medium of tram.Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love them, they are not without their issues and, as with most commutes, the issues are the other people Recognise the Tram Tribes?
And so, we come to Brief Encounter, one of my favourite stories and films.Noël Coward’s story and 1945 film directed by David Lean, tells the story of two commuters who meet by chance in a station waiting/tea room.
In roles made famous by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, He a doctor, removes something from her eye. She, a housewife, lets him.
And so, a love affair begins, made ever more powerful that…(Spoiler Alert – scroll below the train if you haven’t seen the film)
***…it remains unconsummated before both parties go their separate ways, back to their spouses, children and lives; she in 1930s surburbia, he in a hastily yet convenient decision and opportunity to work out in South Africa.***
Now don’t get me wrong, very happily paired up with my plus 1, I’m not seeking out my own station tea room tryst (aka Starbucks), but there is something romantic about the train station (stop picturing Piccadilly Station, naysayers). People being reunited, saying goodbye…and, in this case, meeting for the first time.
If you haven’t already, go forth and watch the film.
But enough of the original source and basic premise, this week (20-24 February 2018), the North West is being treated to an original take on Brief Encounter as brought to the Lowry Theatre, Salford by company Kneehigh Theatre.
Like nothing I’ve seen before, the award-winning production, is adapted and directed by Emma Rice, and produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, Jenny and Steve Wiener and The Old Vic.
It brings together a stellar cast who deliver energetic performances non-stop, from their interactive relationship with the audience from before curtain up (keep your ears open and your eyes peeled) to curtain down.
(Jim Sturgeon as Alec and the full cast, credit: Steve Tanner)
(Dean Nolan as Fred and Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)
Between them they bring the music, the singing, the acting, the props, the almost tongue in cheek special effects, and the laughter.
(Jos Slovick as Stanley & Beverly Rudd as Beryl, credit: Steve Tanner)
You may be surprised about the laughs. Admittedly there are more than in the more emotive film version of the story, but it’s important to remember the light relief brought by characters Albert Godby, Myrtle Bagot and Beryl Walters on the big screen.
It is perhaps in all of the supporting characters (but by no means supporting cast) that this production excels – the story of Laura and Alec almost providing the bridges to the next scene involving the other characters. At the very least, the footing feels equal.
(Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle, credit: Steve Tanner)
This is absolutely no slight on the scenes involving the central players, more a compliment to the production that the limelight was shared so well between all characters in a story where this would be thought impossible.
(Isabel Pollen as Laura, Jim Sturgeon as Alec, credit: Steve Tanner)
The final station tea room scene (no spoilers, fear not) is no less powerful and moving than that of the film (anyone seated next to me – I just had some grit in my eye, is all).
The original music by Stu Barker, and performance of said music, is jaunty and humorous, moving and sometimes melancholy- all as appropriate.
(Katrina Kleve, Lucy Thackeray & Beverly Rudd, credit: Steve Tanner)
Cue outcry from those, who like me, insist that in Brief Encounter there are three in that affair; Laura, Alec and Rachmaninov.Fear not, the stage production brings those powerful strains to the table as well.
At 90 minutes, without an interval, the audience is kept captivated by constant switches between music and word, live action and projected images, costume changes and the aforementioned ingenious props (look out for the toy train).
(Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)
With three more performances at The Lowry before the show moves to a run in the West End, jump on board and don’t miss your chance to see this original take on a classic story.
Failing that, there’s always the Pendolino, but watch out for those lurking in Starbucks whilst you wait…
ps thank you for retaining my two favourite lines…Funny
Thank you for coming back to me