The Haymarket venue originally opened in 1926 as a theatre before being converted into a Cineworld cinema complex. The cinema chain, which runs 73 venues across the country, is co-producing the new stage show, which is currently booking to 22 June 2008, with West End impresarios David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers.
Based on a combination of Noel Coward’s screenplay and his original 1935 one-act stage play, Still Life, Brief Encounter is adapted and directed by Kneehigh artistic director Emma Rice and stars Naomi Frederick and Tristan Sturrock as Laura and Alec, the infidelity tempted couple immortalised on screen by Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, as well as Amanda Lawrence and Stuart McLoughlin.
Critics found it difficult to agree on the overall success of this “somewhat odd hybrid”. While some hailed it as an “unexpectedly enjoyable success” in “artfully straddling stage and screen”, others felt it was “a bit much”. Detractors had a particular problem with an aerial scene involving characters hanging from chandeliers which was viewed as an “especially vulgar mistake” that came “at the cost of the quiet integrity” of the piece. However, there was much general praise for a “superbly acted” production that employs “good use of some of some of Coward's superb songs” and Neil Murray’s impressively “dreamstruck” designs. All in all, the conclusion was that this is “a valuable theatrical Encounter.”
- by Kate Jackson