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Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter On Air at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 12th Feb 2015 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood


A steam train chugged into Windsor this week to promote the Theatre Royal’s latest production. But such extravagant publicity is unnecessary. You only have to speak to any member of the opening night audience to discover that this is a ‘must see’ show.

From Jenny Seagrove’s first emotionally charged words this is a heart breaking portrayal of a wife and mother who falls in love with a man she meets in a railway station refreshment room - or rather her portrayal of an actress playing that woman for a radio version of the iconic movie starring Celia Johnson.

Seagrove is perfect for the role - with her classic English rose looks and slightly tremulous, cultivated voice her performance is beautifully executed. Though she is reading from a script she totally brings to life the role of a woman recounting her affair to her affable husband. She is so convincing that very little imagination is needed to visualise the railway station and the clandestine meetings, even though all we are faced with is a group of actors reading from scripts into a microphone.

Seagrove isn’t the only star of the show. As her character’s lover, Martin Shaw exudes sex appeal though, of course, as this takes place in the 1940s, only in the nicest, most gentlemanly way. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, and their characters’ guilt and despair brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

Thank goodness, therefore, for the lovely Roy Marsden, who must also be thanked for his sympathetic direction. As the station porter he brings some much needed humour to the plot, relishing in his down-to-earth, cheeky, flirtatious role. He and Sara Crowe as the gossipy refreshment room manageress deliver Coward’s famous wit like a comedy double act.

The Theatre Royal did a similar production last year, during which three of Agatha Christie’s radio plays were acted out as in the 1930s. I described it as ‘most original and unusual… classy, nostalgic… and with a huge novelty factor’. The same goes for this production. And no radio play would be complete without the foley artist (who makes the sound effects). On this occasion it is Jared Ashe, who delights us with his popping of champagne corks, tinkling of teacups, and banging a door or climbing a staircase, both of which are so small they wouldn’t be out of place in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Performances apart, Brief Encounter is refreshingly decent, a virtue we seem to see less and less of in today’s world.


Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter On Air continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until February 21.

Box Office: 01753 853888


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Clare. A lovely review.
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