Thursday, 4 April 2019

REVIEW: The Remains Of The Day - Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Southampton.

The Remains Of The Day, based on the novel written by Kazuo Ishiguro and adapted by Barney Norris, follows the beautiful love story of Kenton, exquisitely performed by Niamh Cusack, and Stevens, portrayed by Stephen Boxer, across 20 years during war time England. Directed by Christopher Haydon, this Out Of Joint and Royal & Derngate co-production is shown through flashbacks to 1930s England at Darlington Hall where reserved and aloof Butler, Stevens, works alongside hilariously honest housekeeper, Kenton. 20 years later, Stevens has the chance to travel to Somerset, in hope of rekindling his friendship with Kenton, mindful of the decisions he previously neglected and perhaps regretted. Following his final reach for contentment, this story is heartbreaking, for anyone who has ever been afraid to follow their heart.

The performances of both Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack were enriched with emotion, deeply portraying their respective characters with flare. Stevens' reserved nature was clearly shown by his use of facial expression and body language. This made the point at which he finally opens up to Kenton, sharing his emotions and sobbing, all the more emotive bringing many audience members, including myself, to tears. Their relationship was clearly established by their fluid and second nature interaction making the performance believable and allowing the audience to become completely engrossed in the drama. Cusack brought comedy with her characterisation, preventing the show from falling into a deeply depressing slog of emotion. Her depiction of Kenton was phenomenal, acting as a foil to Stevens, highlighting his own distant and formal nature.

The use of lighting was highly effective allowing the distinction between present and past; using warm straw gels downstage to create present day, contrasting with intrusive white spotlights hanging directly above the characters, casting shadows across their faces ensuing ambiguity and establishing the flashback. Visually, this was aided by the use of costume. All the characters were dressed in black and white clothing when presenting the 30s, and changed into colour creating present day. This included putting on a brown hat and cream jacket, simple but effective, avoiding misunderstanding between roles and time periods to occur.

The set including five large panels creating the internals of Darlington Hall, but also representing various corridors and tea rooms. The panels were also used as windows, with the use of projections establishing rain fall. This continued throughout the production creating and underlying tone of disappointment and missed chances, the main theme of the play. It also injected pathetic fallacy, walking into the theatre to the sight and sound of the falling of rain, suggests an unhappy story. This use of projections and soundscape was thus profoundly effective in establishing a central mood and atmosphere in the theatre.

Conclusively, this production is completely encapsulating, moving and enriching. It will break your heart, whilst striking the perfect balance between tragedy and comedy.

Reviewer - Grace McNicholas
on - 3/4/19

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