Words by Lucy Mounfield
From Friday 2nd to Saturday 17th February, the Birmingham REP’s main stage, The House, will host Kneehigh Theatre’s adaptation of Brief Encounter – written and directed by Kneehigh’s former artistic director, Emma Rice.
Brief Encounter will present evening shows every day at 7:30pm (except Sundays), with a Saturday matinee at 2:00pm on 10th and 17th February.
Extra shows will included a captioned performance at 2pm on Thursday 8th February, an audio described performance at 7:30pm on Friday 9th February, a relaxed performance on at 2pm on Thursday 15th February, and a BSL interpreted performance at 7:30pm on Friday 16th February.
Tickets to Brief Encounter at REP are priced at £10-£15, dependent on the day and time of performance. For direct show information – including all performance times, venue details and online ticket sales, click here.
Originally commissioned and produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and Cineworld in 2008, opening at the Birmingham REP, Kneehigh Theatre have revived the production with a new cast for a 2018 UK tour.
Prior to debuting Brief Encounter ten years ago, Kneehigh Theatre have produced numerous theatrical adaptations such as Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death – as well as family favourites such as 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips based on Michael Morpurgo’s classic novel.
Kneehigh create ‘vigorous, popular and challenging theatre and perform with joyful anarchy’ – taking the seemingly unadaptable and making it come to life on stage with bold and charismatic touches. The Cornish theatre company has been producing shows for over 30 years, with a portfolio that has helped them build a reputation and tour circuit far beyond the ‘breath taking barns on the South Coast of Cornwall’ where they began.
Kneehigh Theatre’s Brief Encounter is adapted from Noël Coward’s screenplay for the 1945 film of the same name, which was based on Coward’s 1936 one-act play Still Life. The film, directed by David Lean, has become widely regarded as a cornerstone of British cinema and has been hailed as a romantic masterpiece by many critics.
Brief Encounter has also garnered a special place in many people’s hearts – arguably defining the society and frustrations of a wartime generation. On the eve of the second world war, Laura, a married woman with children, encounters a chance meeting at a railway station with a man called Alec. From their casual conversations the two are immediately attracted to one another, they arrange further meetings – despite the social taboos of the time – and soon fall in love.
“I’m a happily married woman. Or rather I was until a few weeks ago. This is my whole world and it’s enough, or rather it was until a few weeks ago. Your heart dances. The world seems strange and new. You want to laugh and skip and fall forever… You are in love. You are in love with the wrong person.”
With lines such as these it’s easy to see why many have fallen in love with the characters and unapologetic, ‘haunting’ romanticism of Coward’s writing – a man who was no stranger to the attention of a more clipped and unforgiving era.
Kneehigh Theatre have tackled such themes of love and desire before in their productions of Rebecca, Tristan & Yseult, and A Matter of Life and Death, marrying the light and dark elements of romance, punctuating stark realist moments with dark comic bursts of theatricality. Hopefully with her adaptation of Brief Encounter, Rice will retain the essence of Coward’s witty yet candid script whilst maintaining her signature inventive and breathtakingly bold direction.
Brief Encounter – Behind the scenes with Kneehigh Theatre
Brief Encounter runs at the Birmingham REP from Friday 2nd to Saturday 17th February. For direct show information – including all performance times, venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/brief-encounter
For more from Kneehigh Theatre, visit www.kneehigh.co.uk
For more from the Birmingham REP, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk