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Emma Rice’s approach to theatre may not have pleased the board of Shakespeare’s Globe where the end of her tenure as artistic director is imminent – but she certainly knows how to make an audience happy and proves it once again with this immensely likeable revival of her 2008 interpretation for Cornish company Kneehigh of David Lean’s classic 1945 movie, which was itself based on Noel Coward’s one act play, Still Life, written almost a decade earlier.

Perfectly ensconced in the cosy setting of the Empire cinema, this charming production slips seamlessly between film and theatre as the chance meeting between two respectable married people – housewife Laura and idealistic GP Alec - develops into something much deeper when he removes a piece of grit from her eye at the station where they catch their trains -going in opposite directions, of course.

Rice preserves the poignancy of their situation – but also ramps up the comedy with a couple of other far less cerebral entanglements. The station café manageress indulges in regular assignations with the stationmaster (an unexpectedly agile Dean Nolan, effectively doubling as Laura’s kindly if dull husband), and waitress Beryl (Beverly Rudd) is pursued by honey-voiced Jos Slovick’s cheeky platform vendor Stanley - an unlikely pair who harmonise beautifully.

On stage, a couple of musicians (in big-buttoned 30’s ushers’ outfits) and the cast play a variety of instruments live; on screen, waves crash to the recorded sound of Rachmaninov’s piano concerto as the unresolved yet guilty passion grows between Isabel Pollen’s Laura and Jim Surgeon’s Alec.

Funny, romantic and fleshed out with Coward’s own songs, Rice’s clever merging of cinema and stage proves a playful romantic treat.

Empire Cinema, Haymarket, SW1

Tube: Piccadilly Circus

Until 2nd September 2018

Tickets £20.00 - £52.50


Theatre Review: Brief Encounter
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