Sunday, January 31, 2010
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to see Kneehigh Theatre's version of "Brief Encounter" at St. Ann's Warehouse. I was leery of seeing it- I like David Lean's movie a lot, and I've seen it in the past six months. I have also read "Still Life," Coward's one-act that's the basis of the movie. But I was assured by many people (who knew so many of my friends were such romantics?) that that I had to see it.
I am all for deconstructing pieces of art- I do it myself. But I think it is a very delicate business, particularly with a film like this one. Anything heavy-handed, and it turns into camp or appears irrelevant (two people fall in love, don't have sex and go their separate ways- what, are they Mormons? This has nothing to do with me).
But the adaptation, by director Emma Rice, is pitch-perfect. The actors are uniformly good, and the use of both film and Coward's music (I thought I knew Coward's music pretty well, but I didn't know half the songs). The set, by Neil Murray, is beautiful and well-utilized.
The deconstructionist aspect came to mind when I was reading Larry Harbison's review on his website (link above), where he compared it to an Anne Bogart directed deconstructed narrative. But what consistently bothers me about Bogart is that regardless of the play she's working with, her productions seem more intellectual exercises with the emotion stripped out. Rice is able to keep the emotional reality intact.