at Royal Exchange Manchester, December 2023

Review by Steve Griffiths

Congratulations to The Royal Exchange for putting on a great production of Brief Encounter, the much-loved film by Noel Coward, just in time for Xmas festivities. A show that you, and the kids, can go and feel that you had a good time, that you can join in the cheering, but you don’t come out feeling as though you had just had too much of a good thing (I should have left the last bit of Xmas pud!).

The play felt newly minted though it has been around for nearly 10 years. The director, Sarah Frankcom, has a track record with the Exchange (Betty was hers) and it shows. She knows how to use the bare stage to great advantage with minimal but effective props. Her re-creation (with designer Rose Revitt) of the huge smoky engines which made the original so striking is tremendously effective. Her work with the actors shows to good effect.

The ensemble playing is wonderful, Having a talented group who can act, sing and, one tap dance, really enhances any play. Especially one that is a play with music. Ida Regan, Beryl the slightly put on waiter, has an amazing voice for such a small frame. As she belts out the Noel Coward songs you look on with wonderment. She can also dance with verve and, when she takes off her glasses, is revealed to be a striking member of the cast. Her fellow tea room worker Christina Modestou, shows the attitudes and voice which made the original film so representative of the times. She revels in the opportunity to give voice and passion to a woman in an ordinary job. Hannah Azuonye shows why she was in that wonderful show Girl from the North Country. Its amazing how she was passive, cultured, and passionate, a great piece of acting. And did I mention that she can sing. And dance. And play the piano.

The music played with wonderful timing uses the songs of Noel Coward. Mad about the Boy; Any little fish; 20c blues. Who knew? The 4-piece band marshalled by Mathew Malone showed exactly how to enhance a production. In addition to the super sound effects that the bass provided they backed up the actors without overwhelming them.

The Exchange appears to have rediscovered its mojo. A full house, great acting, good music what more could you ask for at Xmas?

The primary sources for this piece was written for the print and on line media at all across the arts. Authors and Titles have been attributed in our text wherever possible

Images employed have been taken from on line sites only where  categorised as  images free to use.

For a more comprehensive detail of our attribution policy see our for reference only post on 7th April 2023  entitled Aspirations And Attributions.

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