Brief Encounter At Theatre by the Lake, Keswick Review


Reviewed by Jo Hardy

Written by Noel Coward in 1945 Brief Encounter is a true classic which I’ve been aware of for as long as I can remember. I knew the basics of the story and have probably seen some clips but I have never seen the full film so I was really looking forward to watching this show.

The show is performed in the round so the audience is on all four sides of the central stage.  The actors make connections with the audience right from the start.  There are two “ushers” dressed in uniforms of the old cinemas, bright red with gold trim and pill box hat using a chunky chrome torch to guide people to their seats.  We also meet Beryl and Mrs Bagot who are busy getting the station café ready to open for the day. 

Squeezed in the corner is a man on the piano, playing some good sing along songs of the era and a lot of the audience do join in with “I’m leaning on the lamppost” .  This all creates a lovely atmosphere for the show to begin.
This is basically a love story of two people who were both married to other people they met by chance in the station tea room when Laura got a piece of grit in her eye and Alec offered to help remove it as he was a doctor. The story progresses and the romance intensifies with them meeting every Thursday. Just by the most delicate of gestures I got a real sense of how they were constantly battling with there emotions, wanting to stop the relationship developing but not wanting it to stop all at the same time.

One thing that I found a bit distracting was the number of times Laura put her coat on and off, not sure what that was all about. Anne-Marie Piazza who plays Laura gave a fantastic performance and for me was the star of the show.
Running along side the main love story of Laura and Alec there were two other romances inter woven into the story, one between Mrs Bagot and Albert and another between Beryl and Stanley.  These stories make a light relief from the main very intense romance. 

During the show the main stage is a café, restaurant, flat, living room, railway platform, dance floor and boating lake, all changed very easily in front of the audience and the stairs at the end of the row I was sitting on were also used as a staff room for Mrs Bagot and Beryl to take their tea break.

There were some very enjoyable dance scenes incorporated into the story along with some live music and singing. 
The lighting was spectacular.  I particularly liked the romantic dance scene when all the glass ceiling lights were lowered and rose petals fell from the ceiling. 

The show runs from 14th Sept to 8th Oct it is 120 mins long with an intermission and is a co-production with Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough and Octagon Theatre Bolton.

Tickets priced from £10 – £39 can be purchased from the theatre website theatre

Rating: 5/5

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