Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Theatre Review: Brief Encounter

by Eric Green

Theatre Review: Brief Encounter

"Brief Encounter Yields Long Term Memories"

British Kneehigh Production is Brilliant

If you've grown a little tired of the routinization of the theatre productions, even in off and off-off Broadway production, run, don't walk to St. Ann's Warehouse In Brooklyn to see: Brief Encounter.

Yes, that is the name of Noel Coward's book and the Celia Johnson-Trevor Howard acted 1938 British film. And, yes, this is the unusual theatre adaptation of the film.

Emma Rice, a long time actor-director with the Kneehigh Theatre, directs this enormously entertaining production. Kneehigh theatre is from Cornwall England, located on the extreme southwest tip of the British Isles. The ensemble has been producing for 25 years.

In the words of the Company:

"From its home in Cornwall, Kneehigh Theatre has built a reputation for creating vigorous and popular theatre for audiences throughout the UK and beyond. In Cornwall, 1980, a village schoolteacher began to run theatre workshops in his spare time. In due course a mixture of people became involved, a farmer, the sign writer from Tesco, several students, a thrash guitarist from a local band, an electrician. No actors...nobody who had been trained. The workshops took place in the spirit of cheerful anarchy and casually slipped into performance, and finally the production of shows.

"Kneehigh created theatre for families in locations within their communities, village halls, marquees, harbour sides...and less conventional places. They created theatre on cliff-tops, in preaching pits and quarries, amongst gunpowder works and arsenic wastes, up trees, down holes, where the river meets the sea and where woodland footpaths end.

"The company now finds itself celebrated as one of Britain's most exciting touring theatre companies. We create vigorous, popular theatre for a broad spectrum of audiences, using a multi-talented group of performers, Director's, designers, sculptors, engineers, musicians and writers. We use a wide range of art forms and media as our 'tool kit' to make new and accessible forms of theatre. A spontaneous sense of risk and adventure produces extraordinary dramatic results. Themes are universal and local, epic and domestic.

"The company is now acknowledged as a defining theatrical force in the UK. Cornwall is our physical and spiritual home. We draw inspiration from its landscapes, history, people and culture."

The 90-minute production, without intermission, is truly delightful and keeps all of the drama that the film brought to the screen.

St. Ann's Warehouse is located in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn; which is below the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Up until a few years ago, it was located in Brooklyn Heights.

The story is well known. Two middle class people meet at a train station and become involved. Both have families who they love; but alas they still fall in love.

Around that simple betrayal and love theme is a musical score and dance numbers that grow throughout the evening. In fact, the actors, all of whom are musically involved and acting in the projection start and end the evening by serenading the audience before and after the production, in the St Ann's Warehouse outer areas.

There is a brilliant use of special effects that fit right into the production.

Kneehigh takes "Brief Encounter" to Minneapolis after the first of the year.

This production has been so successful that it has been extended to January 17, 2010.

NOTE: St. Ann's Warehouse is slated to fall victim of the profit-greedy development slated for this area of Brooklyn. They have two years left on this lease and then them will be seeking another performance venue.