Reviewed by Janine Rumble
The Remains of the Day is a brilliant, cleverly acted and thought-provoking play chronicling a man’s life in service as a butler before and after the Second World War. It details his life through his memories and tells of his regrets in life and his regret of undeclared love. The play also chronicles the difference between life upstairs and life downstairs and the changing attitudes over the years.
The play is amazing and jumps from one year to the next in a split second and could be difficult for the audience to keep up with what was happening and in what stage/part of the man’s life, but it is so cleverly done and the actors act their various parts so well that it is quite easy to keep up with the story it is portraying.
The play consists of eight amazing actors, six of which play numerous roles and all of whom move the props into position and off the stage. Stephen Boxer is excellent in his role as Stevens, the butler. His performance is astounding, showing the butler at various times in his life, using his demeanour, facial expressions to show the passage of time. One second he could be portraying his younger self, showing his dedication to his master and his position within the large country house within which he works and in the next second, he is portraying the older version of Stevens who is living with the regret of never declaring his love for the former housekeeper Miss Kenton, played by Niamh Cusack. She is also a victim of undeclared love and when it is declared, it is too late, causing the audience to reflect on the passing of time and their regrets in life. Niamh Cusack acts in such a way that you are willing for Stevens to declare his love for her when she is the housekeeper and he is the butler, you can feel Kenton’s frustrations at Stevens failing to notice her growing feelings for him and I sat there in frustration wanting to shout at him for being so blind to her obvious shouts for affection or a return of her feelings. Then went they meet up later in their lives and the roles have switched and he is the one that is wanting to declare his love, you can feel the sadness and unspoken regret between them in the room.
Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack’s scenes are very powerful and they ably joined by Stephen Critchlow who plays Morgan and Sir David, Pip Donaghy plays Stevens’ father Stevens Senior and the waiter, Edward Franklin plays Reginald, Miles Richardson plays Lord Darlington and Carlisle, Sadie Shimmin plays Mrs Taylor and Mme Dupont and Patrick Toomey plays Lewis. All cast put the props on the stage and remove them from the stage in an almost poetic dance around the stage.
The Remains of the Day is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and the theatre show is a co-production by Made in Northampton by Royal & Derngate and Out of Joint in Association with Oxford Playhouse and adapted for the stage by Barney Norris and directed by Christopher Haydon.
Where the show is very complex, the stage itself is very simple, but very effective. It consists of an old mirrored wall that leans at an angle from the back of the stage, this means the actors are seen from all directions, so cannot hide themselves from the audience. I feel the mirror and the reflections replicate the story of the man being bare to the world and his reflections upon his life. Then there are five large pieces of panelled walls that move across the stage and various depths. These are moved throughout the play and are used to represent the different buildings and their corridors in which the man is within. These are used to great effect, as is the display of rain upon them and the sound of falling water, indicating that through most of the play, it is raining.
The lighting and the music added to the dark atmosphere of the play. All of the scenery, set-painting, properties, costuming, wigs and make-up is by Royal & Derngate workshops and facilitated in-house by stage management and technical teams.
I would recommend Made in Northampton play. It shows what talent there is in Northampton to put on a brilliant play.
Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).
The Remains of the Day is at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from 23 February to 16 March 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk or call the box office on 01604 624811.
Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811