Tag Archives: Noël Coward

Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter


Watermill Theatre

Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter

 The Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 18th October 2021



“The music and Anjali Mehra’s choreography are indeed highlights”


“That’s how it all began. Just by me getting a little piece of grit in me eye”. So often in life it is one of these small, simple twists of fate that change the course of a life. Laura, a respectable middle-class woman in an affectionate but rather dull marriage takes a shopping trip to a nearby town by train every Thursday. On the same day, Alec Harvey, a general practitioner works at the local hospital. They become acquainted in the refreshment room of the railway station after Alec removes a piece of dust that Laura has in her eye. Although both are quite content in their marriages, they fall in love and embark on a ‘brief’, passionate affair. They also embark on the rocky road of love, guilt, and self-examination.

Officially titled ‘Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter’, Emma Rice’s name is featured in as large a font as Coward’s on the programme. It is perfectly justified as her stage adaptation is now almost as recognisable as Coward’s film adaptation in 1945 (based on his original one act play “Still Life”). Here, Robert Kirby’s quirky and intimate production has all the Riceisms dutifully bouncing around the stage, showering magic onto a fairly dated love story. All competent musicians and singers, the cast almost give the impression that they have wandered in from the wild shores of Cornwall and an early ‘Kneehigh’ combo. I say ‘almost’. With a couple of exceptions, this troupe sometimes appear to be a bit out of their depth with the demands of the material and they need a couple more weeks to grow into the roles. For now, though, we are too aware of their concentration on getting the words, actions, and the stylistic staging right. Once they relax into the skins of the characters, the emotional impact will have the space to break through.

Laura Lake Adebisi, as Laura, is probably the guiltiest of this and therefore doesn’t quite grab the sympathy of the audience. Callum McIntyre’s more layered Alec gives her plenty to play with, but we don’t really witness the chemistry needed that would make these seemingly above-board characters decide to delve into the depths of deception. It is the peripheral characters that come across more fully formed. They burst with energy, circling the central pair, and filling the tea bar with colour. Kate Milner-Evans as Myrtle, holds forth with a commanding performance, occasionally breaking into song with a quite outstanding voice. Hanna Khogali is a bubble of quirky energy juggling her multiple roles while deftly handling her violin and guitar. Max Gallagher gives a standout performance, again switching between roles and providing the most real and memorable moments of the show; particularly as the camp Stephen, whose flat the lovers borrow one afternoon. Gallagher captures some of the hidden tones of Coward’s original text in just a few short moments of nuanced delivery.

The music and Anjali Mehra’s choreography are indeed highlights. The two are intertwined as the actor musicians dance to the tunes, relaying their instruments back and forth. We bask in a gorgeous mix of Rachmaninoff, Noël Coward and original music from composer and Musical Director, Eamonn O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer’s closing number ‘Always’ is a haunting moment. These are the moments that linger after we leave the auditorium. This staging of ‘Brief Encounter’ is stylistic, atmospheric and a feast for the senses, but there is a detachment, and the emotional encounters are all too brief.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith


Brief Encounter

 The Watermill Theatre until 13th November


Other shows reviewed this month:
Back To The Future | ★★★★ | Adelphi Theatre | October 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | October 2021
The Witchfinder’s Sister | ★★★ | Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | October 2021
Rice | ★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2021
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | October 2021
Love And Other Acts Of Violence | ★★★★ | Donmar Warehouse | October 2021
Yellowfin | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2021


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A Song at Twilight

A Song at Twilight

Cambridge Arts Theatre & UK Tour

A Song at Twilight

A Song at Twilight

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 4th March 2019



“Callow’s performance is everything you’d expect”


A Song at Twilight is one of a trio of plays written by Noël Coward (collectively entitled Suite in Three Keys) all of which are set in the same suite in a luxury hotel in Switzerland. This enchanting play was first produced in 1966 and its revival is currently playing at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge as part of a UK Tour.

Upon entering the theatre the audience is greeted by a closed set. When the lights dimmed and the curtain rose we were impressed by Simon Higlett’s fabulous set that successfully recreates an elegant and opulent high windowed hotel suite overlooking a beautiful moonlit lake.

In the original production, set in the mid sixties, Coward himself played the central character of ageing author Sir Hugo Latymer. The part this time is taken by the quintessentially English thespian Simon Callow. Joining him is Jane Asher (Carlotta Grey), Jessica Turner (Lady Hilde Latymer) and Ash Rizi (Felix). 

Stephen Unwin’s direction is near perfect. The cast use the set well and the pace of exchanges in this witty and engaging play means that the attention of the audience is grabbed from the beginning and retained until the curtain call. The lighting (Ben Ormerod) whilst simple, subtly and effectively changes with the moods of the events that unfold.

Callow’s performance is everything you’d expect from an actor of his status and reputation, in fact the whole cast was outstanding throughout.  Jessica Turner spends a fair amount of time offstage but whilst onstage she expertly projects the various layers of Hilde’s personality. Jane Asher is perfectly cast and produces a stylish and elegant performance that shines throughout the evening. Whilst taking a smaller role Ash Rizi delivers an assured performance as the discreet waiter.

Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable evening in a welcoming Cambridge theatre, watching a multi layered piece of work with a tremendous cast. It is a highly recommended production.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Nobby Clark


A Song at Twilight

Cambridge Arts Theatre until 9th March then UK tour continues


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Cream Tea & Incest | ★★★★ | Hope Theatre | April 2018
Pressure | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | April 2018
Grotty | ★★★★ | The Bunker | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | Jermyn Street Theatre | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | June 2018
Oklahoma! | ★★★★ | The Gordon Craig Theatre | August 2018
Square Rounds | ★★★ | Finborough Theatre | September 2018
Sundowning | ★★★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | October 2018
Drowned or Saved? | ★★★★ | Tristan Bates Theatre | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | Hope Theatre | November 2018


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