The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
October 4, 5, 6 & 7 [+mat] 2017
by Noël Coward
Adapted by Emma Rice
Hazel Starns – Laura
James Newton – Alec
Elena Markham – Myrtle
David Peaty – Albert
Kate McGann – Beryl
Ben Pritchard – Stanley
Adrian Kenward – Stephen
Ryan Etherington – Fred
Adrian Kenward – Bill
Matt Arnold – Johnnie
Samantha Holland – Mary
Andrea Jones – Hermione
Judith Berrill – Dolly
Derek Fraser – Usher – Ensemble – Bobby
Colleen Gale – Usher – Ensemble
Andrea Jones – Usher – Ensemble
Caron Riley – Usher – Ensemble
Jenny White – Usher – Ensemble – Margaret
Film Maker – Jay Shurey
Choreography – Colleen Gale
Choreography – Caron Riley
Choreography – Jenny White
Production Manager – Peter Joyce
Stage Manager – Gaby Bowring
Deputy Stage Manager – Julian Batstone
Technical Adviser – Martin Oakley
Lighting Design – Strat Mastoris
Lighting Operation – Dan Dryer
Sound Design – Bob Ryder
Sound Operation – Brian Jones
Set Design – Judith Berrill
Wardrobe – Maggie Pierce
Wardrobe – Cherry Fraser
Properties – Anita Shipton
Properties – Di Tidzer
Set Construction – David Comber
Workshop member – Dave Collis
Workshop member – Carl Gray
Workshop member – Nigel Goldfinch
Workshop member – Gary Walker
Scenic Painting – Sue Chaplin
Publicity – Judith Berrill
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Peter Joyce
Publicity – Maggi Pierce
Poster and Programme – Judith Berrill
Front of House – Tor Dunster
Programme Note #1: Brief Encounter
‘Brief Encounter’ is a name that many are familiar with, but they may not remember the actual 1945 film. What most people will know though, is that it is a beautiful and tender love story about a chance meeting between two people, prevented from being together by the expectations of the society in which they find themselves.
The film, released in 1945 and directed by David Lean, was based on a short play by Noël Coward called ‘Still Life,’ , who also wrote the screen play for the film. In a time when homosexuality was illegal and was to remain so for another 20 years, Noel Coward, who was gay, understood very well how difficult society made it to express the most fundamental of human needs and emotions in a way that was ‘acceptable’.
Our central characters in the play experience a micro marriage, which lasts just a few weeks, during which they experience extreme joy, shame, lies, deceit, frustration, anger and loss in a very British way.
This version of ‘Brief Encounter’, is the Kneehigh Theatre Company’s version, adapted for the stage by Emma Rice and first staged in 2008. It is the same story and uses much of the same dialogue as the original play and film, but it explores love in its many forms and although the painful liaison of Alec and Laura remains at the core, the fun and joy in love that the other characters in the station café experience, helps to make the central story more poignant.
‘Brief Encounter’ uses many elements of story telling: theatre, music, song, dance, and film to tell the story pf Laura and Alec and this provides us with a perfect vehicle to create a vibrant, playful piece that also delves sometimes into the world of memories, fantasy and imagination, occasionally enabling displays of Technicolor emotion. These very brief displays hint at hat lies beneath the tightly buttoned-up exteriors.
To tell the story to you tonight in words, music, song and dance we have assembled a cast of extremely talented and versatile performers. Some of these will be familiar faces at The Barn, but several of them are Wick ‘virgins,’ including three performers who have never acted in a play before.
On the subject of love we have two actors, who have both been married to at least three other cast members in previous productions and we even have two cast members who were boyfriend and girlfriend in their teenage years – and have only met up again when cast in this production. We’ll leave you to guess who they are!
It’s been a joy working with such an amazing bunch of people, thank you for making it such a great experience.
Publicity #1: Brief Encounter
Publication: Wick Newsletter
Publication Data: August 2017
Correspondent: Diane Robinson
Brief Encounter is not a play about trains, but the very reason our ‘would be,’ lovers, Alec and Laura meet and the things from outside that most threaten them, are trains – train schedules, trains going in opposite directions, trains rushing by and poignant partings in the train station café.
There is a link too between trains and the movies; we sit constrained in our seats and watch out of the window at the scenes flashing by, like life. Mention Brief Encounter to anyone and what they remember is the famous movie with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, and that it is set in a train station refreshment room.
Our production, which was adapted for the stage by Kneehigh Theatre company, has a cast of 17 talented actors and, although it has the wonderful, heart wrenching story of Alec and Laura at its core, it is ultimately a funny, multi-media, high energy production, set mostly in the train station refreshment room.
Film features largely in this production to show what it is in Laura’s imagination and mind, but it also allows us to show the couple playfully enjoying their relationship. What better than a bit of boating? So it was, that one recent Sunday morning, Jay, our film maker, filmed Hazel and James , our lovely Laura and Alec, at Swanbourne lake, Arundel, much to the interest of people passing by.
‘You’re not very good at rowing are you,’ says Laura to Alec. How true this turned out to be, sorry James!
Publicity #2: Brief Encounter
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: September 28 2017 issue – page 46
Correspondent: Phil Hewitt
Text Header: Brief Encounter comes with added fairy-tale quality
The Wick Theatre Company take to the stage with a production of Emma Rice’s adaptation of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter. Directing will be Diane Robinson who promises something of a fairy tale in this Kneehigh Theatre Company-inspired production.
“It’s very much a modern fairy story, about three different relationships, one of which is the relationship which people knew from the film, the relationship that couldn’t happen because they are constrained by the time and their circumstances.”
Diane is promising that the joy, romance and heartache of the timeless story will haunt and entertain you in equal measure. “Brief Encounter is not a play about trains, but the very reason our would-be lovers Alec and Laura meet, and the things from outside that most threaten them, are trains – train schedules, trains going in opposite directions, trains rushing by and poignant partings in the train station café.
There is a link too between trains and the movies. We sit constrained in our seats and watch out of the window at the scenes flashing by, like life. Mention Brief Encounter to anyone and what they remember is the famous movie with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, where romance blooms from a piece of grit in the eye.
Our production, which was adapted for the stage by Kneehigh Theatre company, has a cast of 16 actors and three musicians. Although it has the wonderful, heart wrenching story of Alec and Laura at its core, it is ultimately a funny, multi-media, high-energy production, set mostly in the train station refreshment room where Myrtle, the gorgon of the tea urn, and her resilient assistant Beryl run their own, less restrained romances with the station porters. But mostly it is the story of Alec and Laura, rather than the two other relationships which are successful. Alec’s and Laura’s is the relationship that can’t happen and isn’t able to be for such different reasons.”
Film features in the production to show what id happening in Laura’s imagination – and also to allow the company to show the fairy tale, the couple playfully enjoying their relationship.
“There is a bit where Laura looks back at herself swimming, and she talks about how when she was young she used to swim. And she remembers the freedom before all the constraints came into her life. I think that’s the most poignant moment. I think Noël Coward is just saying this is the way things are, but also we have to find ourselves as individuals.”
But there are also elements Diane believes, in the piece – which is narrated by Laura – where we enter Laura’s imagination, where, for instance, she relates a conversation she wasn’t present to hear.
The approach to the piece is a stylised one: “There are elements were we use moments of freezing and heightened emotion. The rest of the cast freeze while there is something Alex and Laura do. There is a moment where they are caught by their emotions, and the sound of a wave emerges. They re-enact the wave and move with the wave…”
There is also plenty of music and dance, with ensemble and sols singing led by musical director Liz Ryder-Weldon and a live band.
“It has been quite a challenge, particularly using the film. One of the challenges will be when the cast interacts with the film. But is coming together well.”
Performances of Brief Encounter run from Wednesday, October 4 to Saturday, October 7 at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick. There is a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm and evening performance curtain-up is at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £11 on 01273 597094 or www.wicktheatre.co.uk
Review #1: Brief Encounter
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: Email published: 09:38 Sunday 08 2017
Publication Data: Press published: October 12 2017 issue – page 25
Reviewer: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: Dynamic version of classic has the audience enthralled
Kneehigh Theatre Company’s version of Brief Encounter spins the classic love story in a whole new way. Music, dance and comedy are used alongside the heart-wrenching story of a true love that can never be realised.
Wick Theatre Company chose this dynamic production for its entry to this year’s Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards – and for the audience, at least, it was a winner, with every single seat sold last week.
The play combines Noël Coward’s short play Still Life with his screenplay for the 1945 film and while the unusual take on it gives it a whole new, light feel, the Wick managed to retain the torment of forbidden love.
James Newton gave a quiet yet passionate performance as Alec and when he and Hazel Starns, playing Laura, were alone on the stage, deep in conversation, it was as if they were the only people in the world. The second half was mainly focused on their story, as their love grew alongside the realisation that they could not be together. The entire audience watched in total silence, enraptured, and while they did not manage a standing ovation at the end, many raised their hands to applaud.
The first half, however, was very different, launching as if we were in a cinema about to watch a film. Costumed ushers were there to show us to our seats and there was live music to set the ball rolling. There were a number of songs and some dance routines, which worked surprisingly well. It did not make light of the piece, it simply created a new dimension. Film clips were included, too, being cleverly woven into the live drama.
This adaptation brings other love stories to the fore, providing a contrast to the romance of Laura and Alec.
Elena Markham was simply marvellous as Mrs Baggot and her flirtatious games with David Peaty, playing Albert, were a real highlight. David, a Wick stalwart, is such a natural on stage. His solo in this piece was beautifully done and his striptease routine was very comical.
In the smaller roles, Adrian Kenward had Alec’s doctor friend Stephen just right, clearly demonstrating his disapproval of the liaison with Laura in his flat.
And Judith Berrill, of course, will always stand out from the crowd. Playing Dolly, she chattered on relentlessly as Laura’s face slowly fell, realising the last goodbye with Alex had been ruined. He left with just a firm grip on the shoulder.
Review #2: Brief Encounter
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: October 6 2017 issue – page 34
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
IN 1936 Noël Coward wrote the play ‘Still Life’. Later he wrote the screenplay for the classic and much loved film Brief Encounter.
This tender tale of love, set at a time when emotions were suppressed and rarely spoken of, is set into motion when Laura bumps into Alec in a railway station buffet. Both are married and constrained by society’s middle class moral code with stiff upper lips very firmly stiffened. Their story is played out alongside two working class romances which provide comic relief.
Wick Theatre Company uses Emma Rice’s adaptation that fuses much of the original dialogue with musical review and farce – there is excellent live music, too. However the main story is never sent up and thankfully avoids the clipped accents of the time.
The version is like watching two shows at once. In the main it works as the songs, all by Coward, counterpoint the action. Go Show Johnny sung by Dave Peaty is a prime example. But there times when they jar as does some of the dancing and comedy.
There can be no doubt about the quality of the performances. As the middle aged Romeo and Juliet, Hazel Starns and James Newton are most touching in their low key playing. However, the underscoring music from the band occasionally masks the dialogue.
Elena Markham is sheer delight as the buffet manageress with her ladylike pretensions while Kate McGann provides bot comedy and paths as her assistant. There is a classic piece of comic scene stealing from Judith Berrill as a waitress with attitude.
The production is well served by a composite set including a gauze sheet that allows clever film projection and for providing shadowy action taking place on the platform.
The company have made a bold choice – the result is entertaining but also flawed.
Review #3: Brief Encounter
Publication: N.O.D.A – National Operatic and Dramatic Association
Publication Data: October 5 2017
Reviewer: Lance Milton – Regional representative for South East Region District 1 – Mid Sussex
How ironic that my ultimate visit to Southwick as NODA Rep was to enjoy a brilliant production of Brief Encounter by a theatre company I have such affection for. A true case of life imitating art, imitating life and the parallel was not lost on me.
As ever with Wick, the mood was set immediately as the show opened mid-audience and for the first time in my experience – with a song! This was the first of many pleasant surprises throughout the evening in this adaptation of Noel Coward’s ‘Still Life’, with music. The story follows the brief extramarital liaison between Alec and Laura in a Britain that was entirely antagonistic of and outraged by such permissive behaviour.
I am not going to single out any cast member, because to do so would be completely unfair to a cast which director, Diane Robinson, got utterly on the button. Nobody, from the most seasoned experienced regular, to the undetectable three stage virgins, underplayed or over egged any delivery and clearly followed some very vibrant direction to the letter.
The result was outstanding and utterly immersive, drawing the audience into the archaic yet often refreshingly gentler sentiments of the British psyche on the cusp of the Second World War. Interspersed deftly with so many light comedic moments of song, dance and dramatic euphemism, the mood remained engaging and yet comforting despite the dark antonymic underbelly of the story.
The contrast was as effective in execution as it was skilful in planning. Set, costume, lighting and sound were first class along with imaginative and clever use of projection and CGI and there was an audible gasp of joy when Alec boarded his train through the mid-stage gauze, utilised sparingly but effectively, only to appear aboard in the movie and depart the station waving from the window – a stupendous delight to behold.
The incredibly talented Liz Ryder-Weldon lead her three piece band from the piano, saxophone and momentarily the drums to provide what was the perfect accompaniment to some excellent vocal performances and tight close harmony work from the cast.
This final production for me by Wick did not deviate, even marginally, from the exceptional standard I have enjoyed so much over my time as their rep. As was the case for Alec and Laura, I left having utterly loved way too briefly. I shall miss their productions almost as much as I shall miss the warm welcome and wonderful company of Rosemary Bouchy who has been my benevolent companion during almost every visit. In reluctantly exiting this ‘brief encounter’ I fondly wish Rosemary and all at the Wick the continued success they’ve earned and hopefully enjoyed during my tenure. À bientôt, I hope, not Adieu.