City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Still Life (also known as Brief Encounter) Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 06 August 2012

Show details
Dead Posh Productions
Running time: 
Steve Dineen (director), Sue Ruddick (costumes and Props)
Joshua Beckman (Alec), Katharine Farmer (Laura), David Levesley (Albert), Juliet Miriam Clark (Myrtle Baggot), Joshua Green (Stanley), Eleanor Adams (Beryl/Dolly)

David Lean’s 1945 film Brief Encounter, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, received five Oscar nominations and won Grand Prize at Cannes. 

But forget the quaint nostalgic charm of the black and white movie: Still Life is Noel Coward’s original stage play (1936), which truly captures the passion and pain of a secret love affair.

Dead Posh productions is a student theatre company from Warwick University and this welcome revival is their debut play.

The Railway station Refreshment Room stage set is neatly furnished – hat stand, linen draped tables and counter for serving tea and buns to commuters and day trip travellers. Here by chance, a pretty young woman, Laura, meets Alec, a handsome doctor, as they await their respective trains home to their spouses and children.  Their friendship develops over the next few months on a dangerous journey towards adultery.

This was shameful, forbidden love at the time, with which Coward, forced to be a closet homosexual, could empathise. So rather than being sordid and deceitful, their relationship is seen as poignantly sad and honest. 

Dialect, diction, fashionable frocks, hats and handbags, music and sound effects create the meticulously observed period atmosphere.  Performances are smoothly directed with subtle characterisation and dramatic pace.

Occasional scene breaks do perhaps require the pause button, to take a breath - a couple of musical interludes would hold the mood and illustrate the passing of time. 

The play is a study of sexual manners across the social classes. Mrs Baggot manages the tea room and the amorous attentions of Albert, the station master, with brisk efficiency and quick wit, while Beryl the waitress is sweetly wooed by her caring colleague, Stanley.

But centre stage is the love sick, middle class couple; Katharine Farmer portrays Laura, initially as a rather prim and proper lady, but is so flattered by Alec, the debonair doctor, (performed with cool precision by Joshua Beckman), she soon shows a mature strength of mind to follow her carefree heart.

This 50 minute intimate drama packs a punch on an emotional rollercoaster ride and, like the classic film, Still Life is a deliciously romantic weepie.   Book your first class railway seat – tea and cake provided – for a matinee theatrical treat.

Show times

2 - 27 August, (not 12).  1520 daily.

£ 9.50-£11.50 (£7.50-£9.50).

A donation from each ticket sold will go to the Railway Mission, which has supported train staff and passengers since 1881.