I was already very familiar with Noel Coward’s very poignant 1936 play Still Life and the well known 1945 film Brief Encounter directed by David Lean, but this was a new voyage of discovery. Though both the play and the film had elements of gentle humour, neither could have been described as a comedy, this new production gives us comedy whilst still preserving all the dramatic aspects of the prior forms.
Michelle Nightingale and Jim Sturgeon have wonderful chemistry as the ill-fated lovers Laura and Alec. They portray the restraint and the values of a past era with honesty and depth. The other players all take on various characters, all of which contribute to the final excellent product. Joe Alessi switches effortlessly between the roles of Station Master and Laura’s husband as well as providing several other cameos. Annette McLaughlin gives us a Myrtle who is larger than life, but still believable; Kate Cheel is beautifully cheeky as Beryl and bounces well off of Damon Daunno’s bright Stanley. With the musicians Dave Brown and James Gow these four provide a constantly moving backdrop of music and minor characters against which the main theme is played.
Director Emma Rice and her very talented team make the best use of multi-media that I have yet seen in a stage play. The use of back and front projection, live music and the recorded sound, coupled with cleverly choreographed cast movement is extremely effective. The set pieces move in and out with minimum fuss and characters step in and out of the ‘stage’ area to move beyond what is there. Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting design is instrumental in transporting us, and the projection and film designers should be applauded for such seamless transitions and evocative projections.
This is an extremely well thought out and executed production, which preserves and yet improves upon Coward’s original play, in a way that most of us could not imagine. I implore you if you like Coward’s text, love the thirties era or are just a fan of good theatre, go see this production!
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre Complex
Season: 10-28 Sept 2013
Duration: 1hr 40min
Tickets: $25.00 – $65.00
Bookings: Book at BASS
Photo: Michelle Nightingale and Jim Sturgeon in Brief Encounter