The enduring appeal of Brief Encounter

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WHEN the former Kneehigh Theatre director Emma Rice – whose own Wise Children theatre is now based in Frome – took on the challenge of a stage adaptation of one of the best-loved films of all time, there were many who held their breath.

Hanora Kamen as Laura Jesson and Jammy Kasongo as Dr Alec Harvey. Image: Marc Brenner

What would the iconoclastic Rice do with this poignant wartime Noel Coward black-and-white classic, with its famous story of two married people who meet by chance and fall in love. In the event (and unsurprisingly to anyone who knew that first and foremost Rice is a story-teller), the stage version was a triumph, combining the poignancy of the love story with Kneehigh’s trademark anarchic musical fun. It enjoyed a sell-out run in the West End in 2008 and was revived in 2018.
Now, a new production is at Salisbury Playhouse, directed by Douglas Rintoul and starring Hanora Kamen as Laura Jesson and Jammy Kasongo as Dr Alec Harvey, with a stunningly multi-talented ensemble of actor-singer-musicians who play all the other parts.
Beautifully lit by designer Jessie Addinall, the versatile set is a railway station, Laura’s home, a restaurant, Alec’s friend Steve’s flat and, most importantly, the station tearoom where Laura, with painful grit in one eye, first meets Alec, the doctor who carefully removes the fragment. The chemistry between these two is palpable, and the development of the relationship is convincing.
Fanny Charles

Brief Encounter is at Salisbury Playhouse until 22nd April, and then goes on a short tour, including the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich and the Yvonne Armaud at Guildford.

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