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Brief Encounter, Birmingham Rep - review and pictures

By Diane Davies | Theatre & Comedy | Published: | Last Updated:

One of the most famous romance movies of all time, we are surely all familiar with at least some scenes and quotes from Brief Encounter.

Isabel Pollen (Laura) and Jim Sturgeon (Alec)

But I doubt even the biggest fans have never seen it performed like this – drenched in that unique Kneehigh Theatre magic.

Music, dance, humour, superb cinematography, puppetry and even acrobatics, this production has it all. It is an onslaught of the senses for some 90 minutes (with no interval).

Even a section of the auditorium is included in the set with the action in no way restricted to the stage or the ground.

Isabel Pollen (Laura) and Jim Sturgeon (Alec)

In collaboration with The Rep, Kneehigh Theatre has resurrected its imaginative production of the Noel Coward classic and this new, slick and neatly choreographed show is better than ever.

Set in 1938, the story centres on doomed lovers Laura and Alec, who fall in love after fate throws them together at the train station despite both being married with families.

Jim Sturgeon (Alec) and Isabel Pollen (Laura)

Played by Isabel Pollen and Jim Sturgeon, they are typical Coward characters - terribly English, refined, reserved and tortured with guilt over the illicit passion they are struggling to contain.

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Both are convincing in their demanding roles which require energy, singing and choreography as well as being on stage for most of the play.

Jim Sturgeon (Alec) and Isabel Pollen (Laura)

They are almost upstaged, however, by strong members of the supporting cast who bring a new dimension to the action. The tension is lifted or created by the company, much of the humour is found here as well as some exceptional musical talent.

Particularly shining brightly is Beverly Rudd, known for her role as Lisa on Sky’s Trollied, who creates such wonderful caricatures as waitress Beryl whose sweet romance with colleague Stanley runs alongside the tale of the protagonists.

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Stanley is played by Jos Slovick who comes into his own when singing, often entrancing with his solos accompanied only by a mandolin.

Jos Slovick (Stanley) and Beverly Rudd (Beryl)

Another romance running parallel but contrasting to the main love story is that of café boss Myrtle and station guard Albert – played by Lucy Thackeray and Dean Nolan.

These two romances and larger than life characters bring much of the comedy to the production.

Set changes are swift and smooth with action often flicking between the cinema screen and the stage – sometimes seemingly interacting between the two. There are some imaginative methods staged to create the various trains the lovers catch.

Lucy Thackeray (Myrtle)

The play ends as it began with the love story ending as it must, and the audience reaching for their tissues.

This is a wonderfully creative twist on a timeless classic, reinvigorating the much-loved story for fans as well as reaching out to a new generation of romantics.

Runs at the Rep until February 17 – a Valentine’s must-see.

Diane Davies

By Diane Davies
@@didavies_star

MNA Group head of weekly titles, and former deputy editor of the Express & Star. Specialist interest in music and theatre scene with regular reviews from our wealth of top venues.

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