Brief Encounter

The expression in Celia Johnson’s eyes and the thunderous strains of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto. Just two of the indelible memories of the 1945 film of Brief Encounter, directed by David Lean from a screenplay by Noel Coward, which pulled at the heartstrings of generations. Now a new stage version arrives at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

A production reaching out to revamp the classic to appeal to a new audience

The heart-rending story of impossible love among the middle classes began life in Coward’s 1936 one act play, Still Life. He then penned the screenplay for the classic piece of cinema which had tremendous resonance for a post-war audience and thereafter inspired similar tales of a love that could never be.

Brief Encounter tells of a couple, both married to other people, who meet by chance at a local station and fall hopelessly in love. Given the strictures of the time and their social class, the affair is doomed.

Actor/director/writer Emma Rice brought the piece back to the stage in 2008 with an adaptation weaving the original play with the screenplay and adding some extra elements, including songs by Noel Coward. It is this version which is receiving its Scottish premiere at Pitlochry.

Director Elizabeth Newman gets her cast in among the auditorium chatting to patrons before the lights go up. There is a sense that this is a production reaching out to revamp the classic to appeal to a new audience.

At the heart of the piece are Laura, a suburban housewife and Alec, a doctor who wants to make a difference to the world. Kirsty Stuart beautifully combines Laura’s shock at the strength of her feelings for Alec with a terrible sense of hopelessness. While Matthew Trevannion as Alec movingly tells Laura of his love in sonorous tones, formal yet lost in his love for her.

Their meetings, mainly at the station tearoom, are shown in Jen McGinley’s clever set which has the different venues sliding on and off the stage. The set, in muted shades, lit by Jeanine Byrne, evokes a bygone era.

This version takes the original and jazzes it up with actor/musicians singing and dancing. They play the station staff, capering about slapping bottoms and being saucy, enjoying their flirtations in a way that middle class Alec and Laura never could.

Keith Macpherson amusingly combines the officiousness of the station master with the cheeky suitor. He also movingly doubles as Laura’s kind but unemotional husband, Fred.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

By Noël Coward

Adapted for the stage by Emma Rice

Original music composed by Stu Barker

Respectable housewife Laura and idealistic doctor Alec meet by chance at a railway station. Although they are both already married, they continue to meet every Thursday in the station café. Their friendship soon develops into something more emotionally fulfilling than either expected, and they wrestle with the potential havoc their deepening relationship would have on their lives and the lives of those they love.

As they come to realise that their love is impossible, they must deal with the torment that comes from a love doomed never to find fulfilment.

Get ready to be transported to another time, another place by this delightful and joyful adaptation of a true classic romance .

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