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Watermill Theatre

Box office

01635 46044. www.watermill.org.uk

The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury, RG20 8AE. A map is here. A seating plan is here.
@WatermillTh

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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.

PAUL SHAVE

Review from The Guardian.

Sparkling revival of Emma Rice’s forbidden romance

five stars
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.

ANYA RYAN

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]

ROBIN STRAPP

There are reviews from What's On Stage ("supremely joyous... an outstanding, life enhancing experience" - ★★★★★); Musical Theatre Review ("this production ticks everyone’s boxes... delightful" - ★★★★★); The Stage ("ambitious but uneven" - ★★); The Spy in the Stalls ("stylistic, atmospheric and a feast for the senses" - ★★★).

Reviews in the Archive

Just So (July 2021)
As You Like It (June 2021)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (May and August 2021)
A Christmas Carol (December 2020)
Lone Flyer (October 2020)
Bloodshot (September 2020)
Camelot (August 2020)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 2020)
The Wicker Husband (March 2020)
The Prince and the Pauper (November 2019)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (February 2020)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (February 2020)
Assassins (September 2019)
Kiss Me, Kate (July 2019)
Our Church (June 2019)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2019)
Amélie (April 2019)
Macbeth (February 2019)
Robin Hood (November 2018)
Murder For Two (January 2019)
Jane Eyre (October 2018)
Trial by Laughter (September 2018)
Sweet Charity (July 2018)
Jerusalem (June 2018)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (May 2018)
Burke and Hare (April 2018 and on tour)
Digging For Victory Senior Youth Theatre (March 2018)
The Rivals (March 2018)
Teddy (January 2018)
The Borrowers (November 2017)
Under Milk Wood (October 2017)
Loot (September 2017)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 2017 and on tour)
A Little Night Music (July 2017)
All at Sea! (July 2017)
The Miller's Child (July 2017)
Nesting (July 2017 and on tour)
House and Garden (May 2017)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Maskerade (May 2016)
Twelfth Night (April 2017)
Faust x2 (March 2017)
Murder For Two (January 2017)
Sleeping Beauty (November 2016)
Frankenstein (October 2016)
The Wipers Times (September 2016)
Crazy For You (July 2016)
Watership Down (June 2016)
Untold Stories (May 2016)
See the Box Theatre Company review of The Sea (April 2016)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (April 2016 and on tour)
Romeo and Juliet (February 2016)
Tell Me on a Sunday (January 2016)
Alice in Wonderland (November 2015)
Gormenghast (November 2015) - see the Youth page
The Ladykillers (September 2015)
Oliver! (July 2015)
A Little History of the World (July 2015 and on tour)
Between the Lines (July 2015)
The Deep Blue Sea (June 2015)
Far From the Madding Crowd (April 2015)
Tuxedo Junction (March 2015)
The Secret Adversary (February 2015)
Peter Pan (November 2014)
But First This (October 2014)
Twelfth Night (November 2014) - see the Youth page
Journey's End (September 2014)
Calamity Jane (July 2014)
The Boxford Masques - Joe Soap's Masquerade (July 2014)
Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow (July 2014)
A Bunch of Amateurs (May 2014)
See the Box Theatre Company review of The Canterbury Tales (May 2014)
Sense and Sensibility (April 2014)
Life Lessons (March 2014)
All My Sons (February 2014)
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (January 2014)
Pinocchio (November 2013)
Sherlock's Last Case (September 2013)
Romeo+Juliet (September 2013 and on tour)
The Witches of Eastwick (July 2013)
Laurel & Hardy (June 2013)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (May 2013)
The Miser (April 2013)
David Copperfield (March 2013)
Sleuth (February 2013)
Arabian Nights (November 2012)
The Tempest (September 2012)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (August 2012)
Boxford Masques (July 2012)
Ben Hur (June 2012)
Of Mice and Men (May 2012)
Love on the Tracks (April 2012 and on tour)
Henry V and The Winter's Tale (April 2012)
Lettice and Lovage (February 2012)
The Wind in the Willows (November 2011)
Some Like It Hotter (November 2011 and on tour)
Great Expectations (September 2011)
Radio Times (August 2011)
The Marriage of Figaro (July 2011)
Moonlight and Magnolias (May 2011)
Richard III and The Comedy of Errors (April 2011)
The Clodly Light Opera and Drama Society (March 2011)
Relatively Speaking (February 2011)
Treasure Island (November 2010)
Single Spies (September 2010)
Copacabana (July 2010)
Daisy Pulls It Off (June 2010)
Brontë (April 2010)
Raising Voices (March 2010)
Confused Love (March 2010)
Heroes (February 2010)
James and the Giant Peach (November 2009)
Educating Rita (October 2009)
Spend Spend Spend! (July 2009 and September 2010)
Blithe Spirit (May 2009)
Bubbles (April to May and September to October 2009)
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice (March 2009)
Life X 3 (January 2009)
Matilda and Duffy's Stupendous Space Adventure (November 2008)
The Sirens' Call (November 2008)
Our Country's Good (September 2008)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of The Recruiting Officer (October 2008)
Sunset Boulevard (July 2008)
Boxford Masques - Knight and Day (July 2008)
Black Comedy and The Bowmans (May 2008)
London Assurance (April 2008)
Micky Salberg's Crystal Ballroom Dance Band (April 2008 and on tour)
Great West Road (March 2008)
Merrily We Roll Along (March 2008)
Honk! (November 2007)
Rope (September 2007)
Martin Guerre (July 2007)
Twelfth Night (June 2007)
The Story of a Great Lady (April and September 2007, and on tour)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (April 2007)
For Services Rendered (March 2007)
Plunder (January 2007)
The Snow Queen (November 2006)
Peter Pan in Scarlet (October 2006)
The Taming of the Shrew (September 2006 and on tour in 2007)
Hot Mikado (July 2006 and September 2009)
Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year (July 2006)
Hobson's Choice (May 2006)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (April 2006)
Tartuffe (February 2006)
The Jungle Book (November 2005)
The Gilded Lilies (October 2005)
Copenhagen (September 2005)
The Garden of Llangoed (September 2005 and September 2006)
Thieves' Carnival (July 2005)
The Shed (July 2005)
Mack and Mabel (May 2005)
The Odyssey (May 2005)
Broken Glass (April 2005)
The Winter's Tale (January 2005)
Arabian Nights (December 2004)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Whose Life is it Anyway? (November 2004)
Multiplex (November 2004)
Neville's Island (September 2004)
The Comedian (September 2004 and March 2005)
Raising Voices Again (September 2004)
Pinafore Swing (July 2004)
The Venetian Twins (May 2004)
The Gentleman from Olmedo (April 2004)
Mr & Mrs Schultz (March 2004 and on tour)
Sweeney Todd (February 2004)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (November 2003)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of An Ideal Husband (November 2003)
A Star Danced (September 2003)
The Fourth Fold (September 2003)
The Last Days of the Empire (July 2003)
Accelerate (July 2003)
Dreams from a Summer House (May 2003)
The Triumph of Love (April 2003)
Gigolo (March 2003)
Raising Voices (March 2003)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 2003)
The Firebird (November 2002)
Ten Cents a Dance (September 2002)
Dancing at Lughnasa (July 2002)
Love in a Maze (June 2002)
Fiddler on the Roof (April 2002)
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (March 2002 and March 2006)
Only a Matter of Time (February 2002)
Cinderella and the Enchanted Slipper (November 2001)
Piaf (October 2001)
The Merchant of Venice (October 2001)
Witch (September 2001)
The Clandestine Marriage (August 2001)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2001)
Gondoliers (March 2001)
Rose Rage (February 2001)
Carmen (July 2000)