Tuesday, 20 October 2015

REVIEW - Encounter, Above The Stag, Vauxhall


IN the early 1940s Noel Coward wrote Brief Encounter for the big screen. The characters meet and contemplate an affair in a suburban world where it would mean disgrace and ruin.
Many believe the film reflected his Coward’s own frustrations at a time when being gay was illegal and it was impossible for one man to openly love another.
Now in an homage to Coward, writer and director Phil Willmott has taken the story and reimagined it as a gay romance that Coward and his contemporaries were not allowed to write or stage.
Now on at the Above The Stag theatre in Vauxhall, Encounter features two men who meet by chance in a railway station in 1947. One is a doctor, the other is the station manager whose lungs were damaged thanks to working down the coal mine during the war.
To begin with they seem unsure and shy and not sure how to respond to one another. Both have wives though while the doctor says he still loves his wife and son, the station manager has fallen out of love with his wife as their child’s death 10 years previously has driven a wedge between them.
But as they grow comfortable in each other’s company they become less inhibited and eventually decide to give in to their desires.
The chemistry between Adam Lilley’s doctor and Alexander Huetson’s stationmaster is what holds the play together and they do it well.
It is tender, sweet, poignant and heartbreaking with just the right amount of humour to stop it from being a complete weepy.
It also brings home how far gay rights have come in the last 70 years. But thanks to the main story being sandwiched by a short scene at the start and end of the play by a contemporary romance, it shows that there is still some work to be done to make gay relationships truly legitimate.

Encounter is at Above The Stag, Miles Street, Vauxhall until November 15. Tickets cost £19.50. Visit www.abovethestag.com/ for listings.

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