It’s somewhat surprising that writer and composer Alex Loveless decided to turn Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day into a musical. What’s even more surprising is that, by and large, his radical transformation of this story works. Although the fabric of the show is coloured a little too heavily with musical insertions, the songs are almost always well-integrated, intelligently written, and subtly performed.
A sense of distant opulence is created by David Shields’ sombre coloured set, and the small space of the Union helps capture the mood of claustrophobic suspicion and uncertainty. Dilemmas of duty are fought by Stevens the butler and Miss Kenton the housekeeper, and the uneasy partnership between servitude and sterility is movingly portrayed by Stephen Rashbrook and Lucy Bradshaw. Never guilty of over-singing, their vocal control and contained style of singing poignantly reflect the social constraints placed upon their passion.
Although Loveless’ adaptation does not quite pack what we feel is its potential punch, it does suggest a wealth of potential. As a result of the effort invested to mould it into a musical, Ishiguro’s rich story is slightly hard done by and, as such, the full weight of its powerful emotional tale is masked by political storylines and other elements of a less intrinsically dramatic quality.