As an ardent fan of the motion picture of the same name I approached this evening with trepidation. However I was delighted at the famed UK company Kneehigh’s clever production. Hats off to Arts Projects Australia for bringing the show to our shores.
The 1938 setting was faultlessly recreated in every detail; the acting was excellent, the music and sound effects terrific but it was the mechanics of the staging that were absolutely fantastic. Black and white photos were projected on to a screen behind the actors to underscore the story. Devices such as a lit up model train, a hand-held box issuing steam train smoke, puppet children and pretend dogs on leads were constantly turning up, delighting the audience into frequent rounds of applause. The set was brilliantly versatile shifting from a railway cafe, to restaurants, to a domestic home, with ease.
The plot deals with the briefest of love affairs, snatched moments shared by two married people and the heartbreak that inevitably ensues. This is a distant era after all. Running parallel to this are two other romances of a very different kind. These liaisons are between a railway station master and the proprietress of the railway cafe, and a lass who serves in the cafe and a lad who sells sweets on the train.
This adaption of the Noel Coward classic film also includes a segment from his play Still Life and cunningly intersperses nine of Coward’s lovely songs.
The Kneehigh production places much emphasis on the physicality of theatre .The cast revelled in the sharp choreography with drilled precision and wit. This was ensemble work of the highest order and every cast member, including the musicians, gave their all. Joe Alessi, Kate Cheel, Damon Daunno, Annette McLaughlin, Michelle Nightingale, Jim Sturgeon, and musicians Dave Brown and James Gow presented a slick and seamless unity.
Ingenious use of multiple roles worked well and added to the storyline. I felt the crashing wave projected onto the screen as the lovers fell for each other was rather corny but it combined with other watery images such as the underwater swimmer (out of her depth?) and the delightfully romantic boating images.
All in all, a brilliant presentation and only running for a short season: 28 November to 1 December.
Perth theatre lovers don’t miss out. Go now! Staging like this is rare as hen’s teeth.