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Brief Encounter, 14th October to 13th November
A chance meeting between Laura and Alec in a train station tearoom leads to an impossible love affair. Engulfed by a sea of emotions, will they be swept ashore together, or will the tides of change pull them apart? Based on the critically acclaimed film, Noël Coward’s timeless tale of happiness and heartache is reimagined for the stage in a dazzling new production of this epic love story. With music and movement to make your heart soar, this playful and inventive production will take you by the hand and whisk you on a journey through all of love’s beautiful complications. See the reviews below.
The Jungle Book, 18th November to 31st December
In the depths of the Indian rainforest a child is abandoned with no possessions, no family and no home. Under the light of the full moon, the infant is discovered by a pack of wolves who decide to raise him as one of their own. When the ferocious tiger Shere Khan comes looking for prey, the child - Mowgli - is swept to safety by a friendly bear and a wise black panther. Together they teach him the laws of the jungle. Years later, Shere Khan returns and demands the ‘man cub’ leave the jungle forever. Mowgli faces a choice… should he stay and risk further destruction? Or should he leave and accept that the home he knows isn’t the right place for him after all? A wild and captivating musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale full of warmth, laughter and wonder. Join Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera, Kaa, King Louie and more as The Watermill Theatre is transformed into the Indian jungle for the adventure of a lifetime.
Reviews of Brief Encounter
14th October to 13th November 2021
Review from Newbury Theatre.
Noël Coward’s play gained enduring fame through the 1945 film starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. The play has been extended and adapted by Emma Rice, who said about a previous performance of her adaptation, “I don't feel people often get excited going to the theatre, and that’s a real shame. So that's our job: to give people a night out, and as a director I want people to laugh and cry." So you can expect more than a doomed love story from the Watermill production, with elements of humour and two other more promising relationships.
It’s not an auspicious start, with a confusing fast-forward to the end, the actors almost inaudible under the music, but it settles down into the station tea room where Laura (Laura Lake Adebisi) and Alec (Callum McIntyre) first meet. In charge of the tearoom is Mrs Bagot (Kate Milner-Evans) assisted by Beryl (Hanna Khogali). Many cups of tea are poured from a large teapot and – an amusing and interesting twist – a wide variety of sound effects are generated by one of the cast at the side of the stage.
Of course, the cast are actor-musicians and the play includes nine songs by Noël Coward and Musical Director Eamonn O’Dwyer, well sung particularly by Milner-Evans and Khogali.
Alec and Laura are torn between their growing love and the repressions of their middle-class morality. But the chemistry between them isn’t really there.
Charles Angiama is strong as the cheeky ticket inspector, getting it on with Mrs Bagot, and as Laura’s worthy but boring husband. Oliver Aston is impressive in his professional debut as Stanley, flirting with Beryl. The cast, including Max Gallagher the show musical director, also take on the other characters with panache: Laura’s acquaintances (including nice cameos of Dolly and Hermione from Khogali), soldiers and Laura’s young children.
Designer Harry Pizzey and Lighting Designer Ali Hunter have produced a dingy brown set that looks just right for the period. Under Director Robert Kirby, Emma Rice’s play bounces with energy and pace and is a delight to watch.
The Watermill have done us proud with outdoor productions during the last difficult years, and now it’s wonderful to be back in the theatre again.
Review from The Guardian.
Sparkling revival of Emma Rice’s forbidden romance
Emma Rice’s esteemed adaptation of David Lean’s classic 1945 film, Brief Encounter, that merged elements of the Noël Coward one-act play, Still Life, was first performed by Kneehigh in 2008 and widely praised for its innovativeness. Thirteen years later, in a new production directed by Robert Kirby for The Watermill theatre, it manages to be just as engaging.
After an accidental meeting in the train station cafe, reputable housewife Laura and local doctor Alec tumble into a passionate, forbidden love. Both are married, but neither can deny the chemistry. “You could never be dull,” Alec tells her, transfixed. Absorbingly played by Laura Lake Adebisi and Callum McIntyre, we root for their electric partnership, despite their infidelity.
In this sparkling revival, the couple’s love feels urgent and all encompassing. Their stolen time together moves quickly, but each moment is savoured. They beg for the refreshment room to remain open “a few minutes longer”. The days between their weekly meeting feel laboured and slow. In the scenes Laura shares with her husband, Fred (Charles Angiama), the sound of an unhurried, ticking clock underscores their conversation, while her time with Alec is accompanied by wild, romantic music played live on violins. The contrast between the relationships is stark.
In Kirby’s production, everything looks polished. The supporting actors swap between characters, costumes and a variety of instruments seamlessly. Kate Milner-Evans’s Myrtle Bagot is bursting with personality as she pours out cups of tea for comedic effect, with her short embodiment of a spoilt child, Margot, being another of the night’s standouts.
Coward’s songs, too, feel like a natural extension of the spoken drama. Hanna Khogali’s rendition of Mad About the Boy, as the giddy Beryl, is a marvel – her high notes impressive but never too showy.
Staged within a notably slick moving set designed by Harry Pizzey, the 1930s world gracefully comes alive. When a translucent curtain, echoing unforgotten memory, is drawn between the lovers in the play’s final moments, it is genuinely moving. This Brief Encounter is not one that will be forgotten fast.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
An emotional hit
"a fast-paced highly enjoyable production… Oh, what a treat! The Watermill have yet another hit"
[This review is in this week's Newbury Weekly News and will appear here soon]