Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Widely hailed as one of the most romantic love stories of all time, Emma Rice’s Brief Encounter is a thrilling and visually stunning interpretation of the classic tale of forbidden love.
Taking inspiration from Still Life, the short play by Noël Coward which later became David Lean’s 1945 film Brief Encounter, the production offers more depth to the characters surrounding central lovers Alec (Jim Sturgeon ) and Laura (Isabel Pollen ) providing an opportunity to add multiple layers including a sharp injection of humour, music and dance, which takes this audience favourite to the next level.
Innovative director Emma Rice takes the best elements of both the play and the screenplay as she delivers a faithful and fresh take on the story of two middleclass married people who catch a glimpse of what could be should they dare to leap out of their predictable lives.
Upon entering the Lowry’s Lyric theatre, cast members mill about, dressed as 1930’s cinema ushers playing various instruments and singing harmonious ditties offering an instant glimpse into the musicality and originality of Emma Rice’s production and sending a clear message to the audience that we’re in for something a little different.
Multimedia elements are wonderfully woven into the exhilarating onstage action as the story of star-crossed lovers Laura and Alec unfolds. There is playfulness and passion as the tragedy of Laura and Alec’s forbidden love is interspersed with the comedy and joyful silliness of the two additional love stories within the production. Beverly Rudd and Jos Slovick as Beryl and Stanley deliver a perfectly judged interpretation of puppy love, all giggles, blushes and charming light-heartedness, Rudd providing a gorgeous version of Mad About The Boy while Slovick serenades his sweetheart throughout with his melodic observations on romance. Lucy Thackeray and Dean Nolan as Mrs Bagot and Albert are a delight, knowingly coy and completely hilarious, with the most impressively physical reprisal of Noël Coward’s I am no good at love you’re ever likely to see, sharp, witty and near acrobatic in delivery.
Being a Kneehigh production the physical theatre element is second to none, perfectly judged it offers light in the shade of the heart-breaking love story which continues apace. The angst of Alec and Laura’s attempts to control their passion for each other is contrasted beautifully with the elation they experience when together which further adds to the intensity of their scenes together, the on stage chemistry between Sturgeon and Pollen is a joy to watch as love blossoms from their initial innocent meeting at the station.
Designer Neil Murray, lightening designer Malcolm Rippeth and Sound Designer Simon Baker have worked in harmony to create something truly special as they manage to achieve the most striking of cinematic feels to this inventive production.
Innovative, deeply moving and impressively staged, Brief Encounter brings glorious technicolour to this most iconic of love stories.
On at The Lowry until Saturday 24th February here.