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January 16th, 2010

Brief Encounter

The Director's Note for Kneehigh Theatre's production of Brief Encounter at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn is headlined "I Love Romance.  I Also Love Folk Tales."  "Aha," I said to ellen_kushner .  "We have something in common.  That's promising."

After seeing the play, I'd add that the director, Emma Rice, also loves Shakespeare, classic movies, and puppetry.  She enjoys shredding the fourth wall and repurposing Noel Coward songs and having her actors passing out cucumber sandwiches in the lobby after the show.

I liked this show a lot.  I liked the way characters sometimes stepped into a projected, black & white image and immediately appeared on the screen.  I liked the interpolation of Noel Coward songs by a quartet of wonderful musicians costumed as whoever was hanging around the station refreshment area, who would just pick up their instruments and start singing.  I liked the costumes, which were pitch-perfect 1938 sensible tweeds and uniforms.  I loved the actors, who performed their parts with a refreshingly straightforward and irony-free sincerity which I found very appealing.  I loved Laura's puppet-children, and the Shakespearean doubling of lovers--the lusty clowns, Albert and Myrtle, the young innocents Beryl and Bill--and the hints of fairy tale in the background images.  And I loved, loved, loved the actors.

  Hannah Yelland as Laura had a particularly tough row to hoe as a decent, repressed, rather prim wife who finally has too much self respect to throw her dull and worthy husband over for true love, but they were all great.  My only reservation (and it's more an observation than a reservation) is that I found when it was over that it was the artifice I remembered and not the emotions.  The fourth wall may have been breached, but I didn't feel pulled into Laura and Alec's personal tragedy.  I was delighted, not moved.  But I was very delighted.

This production is going to Minneapolis next, from February to April.  Do go see it if you're from around there.  Mileage always varies on these things, but I'd be surprised if you didn't come away with something interesting to talk about.

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