Making my way to the Empire Cinema on Haymarket, I had mixed feelings about reviewing Emma Rice’s adaptation of Brief Encounter. I wondered how the cinema could be made to set the scene for one of Noel Coward’s most well-known productions, and whether it would capture the ambience and atmosphere that a theatre holds. All of my questions and many more were answered, leaving me in no doubt that this is a piece of theatre that needs to be seen.
The cinema is palatial in its setting, the actors meet you at the door and show you to your seats with a cheery nod and a ‘Hi there, how are you?' There is a live band in the corner strumming away with perfect harmonies in sync. As the music tails away, the lights dim and then it is time for the magic. A noteworthy point is that this is a small cast, no more than ten in total, and they take on every role possible, in the most seamless manner. Jos Slovick came into his own here, fast, adaptable and utilising his entire skill-set. His rendition of ‘Any Little Fish’ was flawless. Peter Dukes playing the spoons and asking for a ‘splash’ was sublime. Dean Nolan has the Midas touch, with perfect comedic timing and a dancing repertoire tucked nicely under his belt.
The story of Brief Encounter is ultimately a tale of unrequited love- the escapism of an affair, the ability to leave the humdrum way of life for a moment and to, quite literally, swing from the chandeliers. The very spring in which love blossoms follows through to summer fun and frolics, rowing boats on the lake, falling harder and deeper, but ultimately returning to the choppy seas of autumn. And as for winter? Well, it didn’t quite get there. This is a stirring and evocative piece of live action with the interaction between Jim Sturgeon and Isabel Pollen almost mesmerising to watch. There is a particular scene which is reflected by the background cinema projections. Laura, our lead female, takes a deep sigh, and the sigh was so deep-rooted that it mirrored the turning of the tide.
Love is all you need, but with the highs come the lows and feelings of trepidation of showing the opposite of a heady passion; to make that into a musical adaptation is a feat indeed and this superb cast and crew should be applauded for doing a thoroughly good job.
Brief Encounter is playing at the Empire Cinema until 2 September, 2018. Book your tickets here.
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