Southern Yacht

My little take on plus size fashion, life, travel and smurfs

Thursday 4 April 2019

The Remains of the Day at Nuffield Southampton Theatre

The Remains of the Day

I was invited by Nuffield Southampton Theatres to watch The Remains of the Day. Now, like many people, I knew the Merchant Ivory film and the book, so I was intrigued to see how it would translate to stage. Originally written by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, the play has been adapted by Barney Norris and is currently touring the UK

Set in the 1930's and later the 1950's, the play centres around the memories and current experiences of Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall (Stephen Boxer). He's reserved, strict and unendingly loyal to his employer. Working along Stevens is the housekeeper Kenton (Niamh Cusack). Together, they run Darlington Hall and despite a rocky start, they soon form an effective working partnership with respect (and more) for each other. You can feel the tension and disappointment Kenton has with Stevens when he acts on a decision from Lord Darlington.

Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Rumbling in the background throughout is the pre-war tensions of the 1930's. With political references to government and Europe that wouldn't be out of place in today's Brexit confusion (and much appreciated by the audience) you watch as the characters move inevitably towards war and the sadness of wrong decisions made.

Stephen Boxer, Stephen Critchlow, Miles Richardson, Pip Donaghy  - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Add in the fact that parallel time lines are running throughout the play you really appreciate how the cast keep everything flowing. Some play several characters and although it seems on paper that it shouldn't work, it does. Sadie Shimmin plays an innkeeper one moment, Madame Dupont the next and makes the change seamless.

Sadie Shimmin and Stephen Critchlow - credit Iona Firouzabadi

Stephen Boxer, Patrick Toomey, Miles Richardson, Edward Franklin, Sadie Shimmin - credit Iona Firouzabadi

I realised partway though that the character Stevens is on stage constantly, I cannot think of a scene which he wasn't a part of which must be exhausting for Stephen Boxer. From beginning to end, you really believe he is Stevens. The end scenes with Niamh Cusack were poignant and beautifully acted. Without giving too much away - I did have a tear in my eye.

Stephen Boxer and Niamh Cusack - credit Iona Firouzabadi

An added bonus to the evening was a Q&A with the cast afterwards. To do the play and then spend time answering questions was much appreciated by everyone who stayed to listen. It's a story that has lots of different messages and each audience member will draw from that what they want. Some will say it's a story of lost opportunities, lost love, misplaced beliefs. Others will see a political insight into the mindset of pre-war Britain and how loyalty changes over the years.

As I drove home, I was trying to think of ways to describe the evening. One word that comes to mind is elegant. It really was elegant and stylish and captured the pre-war elegance of the 1930's perfectly. The stage set was minimal but effective and even the simple act of moving props was choreographed like a ballet. As you walked into the theatre before the play started, the scene was set. With atmospheric mist and the illusion of rain on the stage you couldn't help but notice how many people in the audience had a 'wow' moment as they walked in.

Afterwards, I compared the emotions as being the same as when you finish a good book. You become invested in the characters and you feel sad at knowing your time with them is over. I wonder how Steven's story will end during the remains of his days.

*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review

The Remains of the Day is showing at Nuffield Southampton Theatres until 6th April 2019.

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