Brighton Theatre Royal: Brief Encounter
I’d love to know what audiences make of this imaginative, entertaining production of a romantic classic.
There was a huge amount to enjoy: high quality performances from a versatile, talented cast; imaginative staging that saw performers step into and out of backdrop film projection; jaunty and sometimes unexpected arrangements of classic Noel Coward songs; and much more comedy than I was expecting.
We felt thoroughly entertained by a Kneehigh Theatre production it was very hard not to feel charmed and captivated by. The staging and sets effectively took us back into wartime Britain, and excellent musicianship and harmonies on display made it a musical treat as well.
However, I do wonder whether the romantics in the audience drawn along because of the classic David Lean film with Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson will feel slightly hard done by. The comic tone of many of the cast performances – which were hugely entertaining – at times threatened to pull the rug from under the tender, yearning scenes between principal characters Laura (Hannah Yelland, complete with terribly cut glass English accent) and Alec (Milo Twomey, all flapping raincoat and doctorly charm).
Because of this the choreographed moves of the ensemble complete with film backdrop of crashing waves became almost parody-like due to being repeated just a little too often.
Maybe I’m nitpicking though, because it was overall a thoroughly entertaining show – with standout performances from the whole cast, particularly Joseph Alessi, as both cheeky chappy Albert and dull-but-kind husband Fred, and Beverley Rudd as teabar giggler Beryl.
With the musicians mingling with the audience before the start and setting the tone with some jazz-lite Coward songs, the ambience was excellent throughout, mixing vaudeville and music hall with fast-moving storytelling.
I do wonder, though, whether the romantics would have liked to have laughed rather less and cried rather more.
Book until Saturday (25 April) on 08700 606 650 or online at www.theambassadors.com/theatreroyal