The foyer of the Empire Cinema is decked with red roses and filled with the sounds of accordion, ukulele and songs, performed by smiling ushers in period costume. It's the sort of welcome you expect from Kneehigh, the Cornish theatre company who've been weaving their magic for thirty five years now.

In case of any confusion, Kneehigh's 'Brief Encounter' is based on the original Noel Coward play (1936) which was followed by the seminal David Leane film version (1945). Emma Rice's adaptation is a play (with music by Noel Coward) although performed in a cinema and actually, there are new elements of film (in the style of the old film) in the play too. It all makes perfect sense when you're watching! Returning to the West End after ten years, it's been trimmed and brought back to life by Rice without losing any of it's early charm.

Brief Encounter, is really about a feeling. If you don't already know the film, the story is extraordinarily simple. Two respectable married people, Laura Jesson (Isabel Pollen) and doctor Alec Harvey (Jim Sturgeon) meet in a train station and fall in love over the course of a handful of secret engagements. Then they part. To capture the overwhelming feeling, the bitter sweet yearning of a doomed affair is crucial or the play would be nothing. Cue impish ensemble creativity and physical comedy that has made Kneehigh's name.

Mischievous characters with their own romances and eccentricities feed delightfully into the mainline misery as a wave of desire sweeps through all their lives. Bucksome Myrtle (Lucy Thackeray) who runs the tea-shop is being wooed by the extraordinarily nimble footed station master played by Dean Nolan who is equally brilliant as Laura's husband Fred Jesson. Giggling Beryll (Beverly Rudd) rides a scooter between tables and leaps on bobble hatted Stanley (Jos Slovick) who is a never without his ukulele and a dreamy song. Trains passing through the station are miniature toys, a smoke machine or a moving projection. The whole ensemble wobble as it passes, the wind blows and the wave threatens to drown them. Back at home, Laura's puppet children fight as she crashes back into her reality.

Coward was adamant that Laura listened to Rachmaninoff and the extraordinary piano climax from the film version is not lost in this production. In addition they have borrowed songs from Coward's incredible catalogue including 'No good at love', 'Mad about the boy' and 'A room with a view.' In fact there is rarely a moment without the sweet sounds of ukulele and double bass to accompany it.

Noel Coward, a gay man living well before decriminilsation of homosexuality knew plenty about forbidden love, guilt and societal shame. 'We are neither of us free to love each other' says Laura before she falls. But neither Coward nor Knee-high ever let darkness descend completely. As Beryll who runs the station tea shop sings, 'I'm no good at love. I feel the misery of the end in the moment it begins…' And yet such delicious misery, tumbled in the knee-high world of playful shenanigans.

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