Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: Brief Encounter Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 17 May, 2023
Updated on: 18 May, 2023

Love blossoms from a brief encounter. Hanora Kamen and Jammy Kasongo

By Ferenc Hepp

The scene – a 1940s railway station cafe. There is a chance meeting. Dr Alec Harvey (Jammy Kasongo), in gentlemanly fashion, removes some grit from Laura Jesson’s (Hanora Kamen) eye. Innocent enough – but romance blossoms.

They begin to meet, weekly visits include a date at the cinema and a boat trip. The problem is that they are both married, so this extramarital affair has a significant effect on the people around them.

A New Wolsey Theatre and Wiltshire Creative Production, in association with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre brings the Noel Coward classic, Brief Encounter, to the Guildford stage this week, adapted by Emma Rice and directed by Douglas Rintoul.

This is a musical adaptation of the classic story…

This is a musical adaptation of the classic story, with new material composed and orchestrated by Tom Self, who is also part of the company of eight-actor musicians playing several characters, all of whom are very busy throughout the show, with lots of very quick costume changes.

The stage design by Jess Curtis is very clever, taking the form of a pair of curtains on a track surrounding a round playing area, which the cast operate throughout as they pull them across for scene changes, and push them back in various ways depending on the setting. In a way, the circularity of the curtain represents the circularity of the plot.

Plays quite often take a while to get going as the characters are introduced and scenes are set, but this production has energy and a good pace from the outset.

Some of the cast interact with the audience at the start as old-style ushers before they step up onto the stage and play various instruments, as well as taking on several characters.

The additional music by Tom Self complements the mood of the piece perfectly, and there is some great comic timing with a very funny performance by Samuel Morgan-Grahame on various percussion instruments, together with his hilarious facial expressions, often breaking the fourth wall and aimed at the audience.

The working chemistry between Kamen and Kasongo is clear, we get completely drawn into the development of the affair, and we empathise with her when she confesses to Dr Alex that “Loving you… makes me a stranger in my own house.”

We don’t see a huge amount of her relationship with her husband, and we don’t see any of Dr Alec’s home life, but we don’t need to. A lot of this can be left to our imagination. Similarly, there are some moments where the actors perform a simple but significant movement to a projection of gushing water in the background, and this is open to interpretation.

Are these flashbacks, memories coming back, or waves of overwhelming emotion? It can be all of the above. The projections work extremely well, and the vocals in the songs from everyone in the company are first-class.

Joanna Read

The performance on Tuesday was BSL (British sign language) interpreted by Caroline Smith, and we were also treated to a cast Q & A session afterwards, chaired by the Arnaud’s CEO and Director, Joanna Read. It was then that we found out that the rehearsal process was a mere three weeks, which makes the product even more impressive.

It was very well received by an audience made up of all ages. There is something there for everyone.

Brief Encounter runs until Saturday 20 May and tickets are available via: or phone 01483 440000.

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