Brief Encounter

The Empire Cinema
Haymarket, London

Previewed: 2 March 2018
Opened: 11 March 2018
Closes 2 September 2018

Buy tickets: 0844 847 1722 or

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Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus

Show times
Monday no shows
Tuesday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 3.00pm and 7.30pm
Thursday at 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 3.00pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 3.00pm

Runs 1 hour and 30 minutes with no interval

Seat prices
£? to £?
(plus booking fees if applicable)

Brief Encounter

Kneehigh Theatre presents the return of their acclaimed live stage production of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter in London for a limited season from 2 March 2018

The lives and loves of three couples are played out in the famous station tearoom using the words and songs of Noel Coward to create a breathtaking, delightfully funny and tear-inducing show. In 1946, the classic film Brief Encounter premiered at a cinema on the Haymarket in London. Now, Kneehigh Theatre's production of NoŽl Coward's Brief Encounter is back at a cinema on the Haymarket, but this time it is Live on Stage!

The cast features Jim Sturgeon as 'Alec' and Isabel Pollen as 'Laura' with Lucy Thackeray as 'Myrtle', Beverly Rudd as 'Beryl', Jos Slovick as 'Stanley', Dean Nolan as 'Fred / Albert', Peter Dukes and Katrina Kleves. Directed by Emma Rice with designs by Neil Murray, projections by Gemma Carrington and Jon Driscoll, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, music by Stu Barker and sound by Simon Baker.

Emma Rice has adapted this production which switches seamlessly between theatre and film, using a combination of Noel Coward's original stage play, Still Life, and the screenplay of Brief Encounter, and which promises to take you back to a bygone age of romance and the silver screen. This production was originally seen in London here at the Empire Cinema in the Haymarket in 2008.

Emma Rice was artistic director of the Kneehigh Theatre in Cornwall, she then took over as the artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe for two years from January 2016. Her West End theatre credits include the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Gielgud Theatre in 2011.

Originally seen at the Cinema Haymarket (now Empire Cinema, formerly Carlton Cinema) - previewed from 2 February 2008, opened on 17 February 2008 and closed on 16 November 2008. The original 2008 cast featured Naomi Frederick as 'Laura', Tamzin Griffin as 'Myrtle', Amanda Lawrence as 'Beryl', Stuart McLoughlin as 'Stanley', Tristan Sturrock as Alec' and Andy Williams as 'Fred / Albert' along with Jess Murphy, Adam Pleeth, Adam Randle and Ian Ross. Directed by Emma Rice with designs by Neil Murray, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, projections by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington, original music by Stu Barker and sound by Simon Baker.

"'Not the film', shout the posters in the foyer of London's wonderfully kitsch Cinema Haymarket. Even if the late-1920s cinema does seem the perfect venue to show David Lean's weepie, the posters are a deadpan reminder to audiences that no, this is not the 1945 classic, and no, you are not even seeing a film. Emma Rice's adaptation is a theatrical piece in its own right, though being indebted to the film,comparisons are inevitable... The story as the Kneehigh Theatre group tells it remains unaltered from the film... But the treatment is something else entirely. Rice makes full use of her unusual location, mixing screen projections with stage action; she also has live musicians providing the score, with actors singing a soundtrack of Coward songs. It is not a musical; more, in its mixture of dialogue and song, a nod to the original writer." The Sunday Times

"Drawing on both the film, Brief Encounter, and Noel Coward's earlier one-act play, Still Life, director and adapter Emma Rice mercifully doesn't mess with the central love story in which Alec removes a piece of grit from one of Laura's beautiful eyes and, a cup of tea and a movie later, these two married innocents are earnestly, passionately in love, a love doomed never to be consummated... Emma Rice milks the station buffet of every last drop of comedy, giving all the characters bawdy little music hall turns, many incorporating Coward's own songs, such as Alice Is At It Again and Room With A View, with more mixed results." Mail on Sunday

"The audience are enfolded in a period atmosphere from the moment they enter the unmodernised Cinema Haymarket (built in 1927)... Black-and-white film is intercut cleverly with live performance, with characters walking 'into' a large screen and immediately appearing on film. And there's more than a touch of music hall with the audience singing along to one ditty and waitress Beryl prancing around with green balloons for breasts and belting out Alice is At It Again. But the poignancy of the central love story is mostly drowned out by all the pastiche... The sympathy here is with the working-class characters. They all enjoy a good old bit of slap and tickle, while Laura thwarts her chance at happiness with Alec purely through fear of not being respectable, and that fear comes across as completely silly. There's no sense that her family figures in her decision and that her husband Fred has been made a figure of fun. This gives a cruder shading to the subtleties of the original film. Even so, for a night of warm-hearted entertainment, rich in Kneehigh's hallmark charm, it's hard to beat." The Sunday Telegraph

Emma Rice on Noel Coward's Brief Encounter: "In Still Life, later to become Brief Encounter, Noel Coward wrote a play about an affair. Not a sordid affair but a love affair between two married people. An impossible affair, a painful affair, an unacceptable affair. It is written with such empathy, such observation, and such tender agony. This man knew what he was writing about. Imagine being gay in the 1930s and you begin to understand Brief Encounter. Imagine the impossibility of expressing the most fundamental of human needs emotions. Imagine the enforced shame, lies and deceit. Imagine the frustration, imagine the loss, and imagine the anger. Each of these emotions is delicately and Britishly traced through the meetings of our lovers. They experience a micro marriage, a relationship from beginning to end in a few short hours... My hope is that Alec and Laura escape. Not with each other in some idealistic romantic way but an escape provoked by the profound and personal awakening they felt when they met. We humans are fearful by nature - it is often somebody else who provides the catalyst for change but they are not the cause. Change can only happen from within. After our story ends, I like to think that our lovers will change. I imagine that Alec will make a real difference in Africa and find an expanse of spirit that seems untouchable in our story. I hope and dream that Laura will take up the piano again and perform on the world's greatest and most awe-inspiring stages. As I write this, I wonder if these are, in fact, my dreams? That is the power of a great and enduring story; we can all own it and feel it and find something of ourselves in it."

From its home in Cornwall, Kneehigh Theatre has built a reputation for creating vigorous and popular theatre for audiences throughout the UK and beyond. Started in Cornwall in the early 1980s by a village school teacher, Kneehigh Theatre now finds itself celebrated as one of Britain's most exciting touring theatre companies. Kneehigh Theatre aims to provide vigorous, popular theatre for a broad spectrum of audiences, using a multi-talented group of performers, directors, designers, sculptors, engineers, musicians and writers aswell as using a wide range of art forms and media as part of the 'tool kit' to make new and accessible forms of theatre. This production of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter by Kneehigh Theatre in London promises to continue this tradition.

Live on stage Brief Encounter in London at the Empire Cinema previewed from 2 March 2018, opened on 11 March 2018 and closes on 2 September 2018

Brief Encounter - 2000

Previewed 6 September 2000, Opened 11 September 2000, Closed 4 November 2000 at the Lyric Theatre

Noel Coward's masterpiece is one of the most engaging and romantic stories of all time - captured by David Lean in the classic 1946 film starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, this tale of forbidden love and emotion, set against the backdrop of two lonely people has now been adapted for the stage.

The cast features Jenny Seagrove as 'Laura' and Alex and Christopher Cazenove as 'Alex' with Brian Deacon, Elizabeth Power, Christopher Beeny, April Walker, Amy Rodgers, Andrew Blair and Sion Lloyd. Adapted by Andrew Taylor, directed by Roger Redfarn with designs by Martyn Bainbridge. Jenny Seagrove's London theatre credits include Richard Harris' Dead Guilty and William Gibson's The Miracle Worker.

"David Lean's 1945 Brief Encounter is reheated at the Lyric with Jenny Seagrove and Christopher Casenove as Laura and Alex... They take a chance on love that can never be realised. Roger Redfarn's production recreates the film's smoky atmosphere in the station tea shop where the nearly-lovers say hello and goodbye over several weeks. The trains roar past and Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto swells on the soundtrack. Andrew Taylor's adaptation infuriatingly adopts the devices of flashback and voice-over, with Lauara recalling the afair in her suburban drawing room. On film, the technique was daring and appropriate. Here, it seems a feeble way of not confronting the problem of writing powerful theatre. Celia Johnson in close up was a very picture of doe-eyed guilt that Miss Seagrove never gets near challenging, for all her tearful helplessness. We also see the chance meeting in the Kardomah cafe, the interrupted tryst in a friend's flat and the momentary thought of suicide as the boat train rushed through... Unlike The Graduate, a well-written new comedy, this Brief Encounter merely trades on memories, then betrays them." The Daily Mail

"At least the film is a genuine period piece. This stage version, though, adapted by Andrew Taylor, neatly designed by Martyn Bainbridge and directed without a smidgen of irony or humour by Roger Redfarn, seems fake to the core. What possible point is there in slavishly re-creating a 55-year-old-movie, right down to great clouds of steam wafting in through the refreshment-room door and the heroine sitting there with her mouth shut while her voice-over is relayed over the theatre sound system. The theatre isn't the cinema. Why pretend that it is?... The endlessly wittering refreshment-room manageress with the preposterous 'refained' accent, the cheery old ticket collector who slaps her bottom - these are grotesque, unforgivably patronised stereotypes, though they are played here with heroic good cheer by Elizabeth Power - who turns the unpromising words "cake or pastry?" into an irresistible running gag - and Christopher Beeny. Jenny Seagrove and Christopher Cazenove fare far less well as the interminably agonising lovers. At least you felt that Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard meant what they were saying, however silly it was, and there was an undeniable charge between them. Here you can only wonder how Seagrove and Cazenove contrive to keep straight faces." The Daily Telegraph

"In 1945 the film David Lean made from one of Noel Coward's short plays must have seemed as touchingly, comically, and infuriatingly English as a work could get. And now here it is at The Lyric Theatre, adapted and restored to the stage by Andrew Taylor, a piece to make even nostalgia-freaks boggle in disbelief at its period blend of Boots library books, stiff upper lips, steam trains, repression, stale buns and tea. Jenny Seagrove is Laura, the housewife played in the movie by a beakily anguished Celia Johnson, and Christopher Cazenove is her would-be lover, Alec, the GP to whom Trevor Howard brought as much depth as circumstances allowed. But circumstances didn't allow Alec much darkness and depth on the screen and they don't on stage, since the action is seen through Laura's eyes and often narrated by her in voiceover... Cazenove plays boyish eagerness and Seagrove sweetness, decency and grief, and both do so pretty well, but there's no great passion, desperation, or even need in their encounters." The Times

Brief Encounter in London at the Lyric Theatre previewed from 6 September 2000, opened on 11 September 2000 and closed on 4 November 2000