From a production you have seen recently chose a scene or section which made a strong impact on you. Discuss what this impact was and how it was achieved. ‘Noel Coward’s A Brief Encounter” was adapted from the original film by Emma Rue; it was staged on a small proscenium arch stage at the Cinema Haymarket. It was set in England in the 1940s and was performed in a naturalistic style. The play was a tragic romance with elements of comedy, the themes and issues explored in the play were love, fidelity and social etiquette.
The play concerned the story of Laura and Alec who meet at a train station caf and then see each other every Thursday from then on. They fall in love; however they are both already married to different people. This creates conflicting emotions in the characters, especially in Laura who feels very guilty about the affair. At the end of the play Alec, who is a doctor, decides to move to Africa with his family and open a hospital there, leaving Laura behind in England.
The section I am going to write about is towards the end of the play. It is set in the train station where Laura and Alec first met and where they went their separate ways after each of their Thursday meetings. Alec and Laura have said their final goodbyes, and Alec has just left leaving Laura only with a friend who had interrupted their last meeting meaning that they had not had a proper chance to say goodbye. Laura, knowing the express train is coming, walks out onto the bridge ( see diagram), the train rushes past and it is unclear whether Laura is going to kill herself, however in the end she does not. The impact this scene had on me was one of tension and panic – was Laura going to kill herself or not?, and feelings of sadness, pity and empathy for Laura after it was revealed that she had not killed herself and was left alone on the bridge of the station.
An air of tension and panic was created very effectively in the section. Laura played by Naomi Frederick was standing on the ‘bridge’ – scaffolding that could be raised and lowered and represented the railway bridge in the station during this section of the play. As the ‘bridge’ was very high up and looked unstable it added to the air of panic as it made it look dangerous and drew my attention to the situation Laura was in. The ‘bridge’ was also a very large section of scaffolding and it made Laura look very small and alone when she was standing on it. The ‘bridge’ was the main feature of the setting for this section and it was able to create a mood of tension well.
Naomi Frederick was standing on the ‘bridge’ leaning slightly forward, with her feet wide apart and her arms out straight near her sides, this was effective at showing how tense, upset and panicked the character of Laura was during this part of the section. Her eyes were very wide open showing very effectively Laura’s fear, panic and sadness. As Frederick was leaning forwards it was very difficult to tell if she was going to jump or not, which contributed well to the impact of panic and tension.
Whilst Laura was standing on the ‘bridge’ the lighting was mainly focused on the bridge and Laura, with a spot light on Laura and the bridge and the rest of the stage almost not lit at all. This was very effective at drawing attention to Laura adding to the mood of panic, and the bright lights shining on her made her look very small and created feelings of pity and sadness for her and her situation.
Then a screen was dragged across the stage (see diagram) with an image of a fast-moving train projected onto it which represented the express train. This was an interesting way of depicting the train, which meant that my attention was especially drawn to it, and meant that it seemed more poignant. The screen was pulled across the stage at the same speed as the projected image of the train was moving which made the train seem more realistic and made the train appear to be moving very quickly indeed and all this added very effectively to the mood of tension and panic. A sound effect of a train rushing through a station was played very loudly and the sudden noise of the train surprised me and added to the mood of tension and panic.
The volume of the sound effect of the train decreased as it left the station which made Laura seem even more alone and pitiable after the train had left and this caused me to feel sympathy for the character. The lighting during the section in which the train moved across the stage was also effective in creating tension and panic, there was a sudden lighting change from simple white and yellow light on Laura, to a stark spotlight on Laura and blue lighting around the area the ‘train’ was passing through. This change in lighting made the train’s passing more dramatic and added to the feeling of tension and panic.
After the train passed there was a quick and sudden blackout, this was effective in adding to the feeling of panic, as I was not sure whether Laura had killed herself or not. The acting in this part of the section was also effective but at creating sympathy and empathy for the character of Laura, after the screen had been dragged across the stage Naomi Frederick relaxed her arms and dropped her shoulders, and bowed her head to show how deflated, upset and defeated Laura was. After the loudness of the train passing the silence in this part of the section was very effective at creating sympathy for Laura as it made her seem very small and alone as she stood in the silent, empty station.
Overall the section was very effective in creating a mood of tension and panic, and then feelings of intense sympathy and pity for Laura as she stood alone high up on the empty bridge. All the different elements of the section, especially the acting, lighting and sound worked together very well to create the impact the section had on me and it was very effective and moving section of the play.