WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Empire Cinema Haymarket
WHEN: 1/4 (matinee) runs to 2/9/18
The setting is England in 1938 and members of the cast dressed as ushers and usherettes meet us in the foyer of this cinema venue to serenade us to our seats.
- Read on for reasons including why Rice was right to return to this after the Globe
Before curtain up we are offered tissues in case we get a piece of grit in our eye and the play begins with a husband in black and white onscreen urging his wife, who is sat with another man in the front row of our audience, to rejoin him on screen.
Welcome to the hugely imaginative revival of Emma Rice’s 2008 reimagining of the 1945 film of the Noel Coward play about a bored housewife who encounters a GP at a station when she is struggling with a piece of grit in her eye.
Rice leaves her role as artistic director at Shakespeare’s Globe this month and this is a timely reminder of a greatest hit from her back catalogue.
This revival includes 10 songs, nine of which are by Coward, which includes such well-known songs as Mad About The Boy which propel the story forward.
The cast sing and play the songs and special mention must go to Beverly Rudd (the funniest thing about it in a variety of roles) and Jos Slovick (who sings and plays most memorably).
Much of the action is in the cafe at the station and the woman in charge there (Myrtle Bagot) is brought vividly to life by Lucy Thackeray whose imitation is spot on and whose accent slip gives a sense of the need of the time to act in a certain way to fit in.
The reason why Brief Encounter has such wide appeal is because of the universality of the story of not wanting to be trapped into a certain way of behaving that doesn’t ring true.
At 95 minutes without interval, this is a wildly inventive, visual and aural joy from start to finish.