Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter at Birmingham REP

by Dave Massey

Brief Encounter at Birmingham REP

#BrumHour was lucky enough to receive an invite to the press night of Brief Encounter which is at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until 17th February.

Using drama, laughter, music, dance, film and models, it boasts a warm and talented cast with a beautiful love story told over a single 90 minute act. Now, dear blog reader, I’ve never actually seen the whole film of Brief Encounter, I’ve seen clips, parodies and retellings so for me this was an absorbing story that I already felt I knew.

Isabel Pollen (Laura) and Jim Sturgeon (Alec)
Isabel Pollen (Laura) and Jim Sturgeon (Alec)

Jim Sturgeon plays Alec a Doctor who helps Isobel Pollen’s Laura when she has grit in her eye at the railway station. Both married with their own families, they notice an instant attraction which is hard to ignore. Laura is bored of her housewife routine and spends Thursdays treating herself to lunch out and cinema trips. While Alec is somewhat bored of his career and needs escapism.

This production presented by Kneehigh Theatre and Birmingham Repertory Theatre is adapted by Emma Rice and its easy to see how much she loved this story to give it such a strong stage retelling. It borders on interpretive art or the type of visual art that you might find at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery.

Isabel Pollen (Laura) and Jim Sturgeon (Alec)
Isabel Pollen (Laura) and Jim Sturgeon (Alec)

Right from the start you are invited into this world of forbidden romance and guilt, one sequence seemed to be almost dreamlike, as Alec and Laura take go boating and she’s still thinking about it when her husband comes home and turns the wireless off. (That’s what the radio used to be called before Alexa/Google Home.)

There’s huge elements that made me think of Julie Walters and Victoria Woods waitress characters as supporting cast Lucy Thackeray and Beverly Rudd characters Myrtle and Dolly manage the railway cafe where lots of the action is set. Their own affections are directed to Dean Nolan as the platform manager and Jos Slovick as Stanley.

Jos Slovick (Stanley) and Beverly Rudd (Beryl)
Jos Slovick (Stanley) and Beverly Rudd (Beryl)

The details in the set are mesmerizing, the light on the cafe table forms an eclipse, the railway station cafe extends into the audience and there are cinema seats. One part I didn’t understand was the crashing waves projected at the rear of the stage and the whole cast react by waving their arms to match. I might have to watch the movie after all to see if there’s a connection to that.

This production is ideal for Valentine’s Day or the week of Valentines and made me happy, sad and hopeful all at the the same time. I must have something in my eye.

Book tickets to Brief Encounter which is at Birmingham REP until 17th February here:

This isn’t a sponsored post. #BrumHour was invited to see Brief Encounter by Birmingham REP.