Encounter, Above the stag theatre

  • Date : 12th November 2015

Stephen Vowles reviews Phil Wilmott’s Encounter a reworking of a certain Noel Coward film that his estate asked to be retitled removing the words Brief and Gay. The story is in fact a tribute to a master story teller and Mr Willmott expands on a theme of forbidden love and desire and puts his own spin on a tale of gay romance that his fellow playwrights could not write,

The Above The Stag producers are quick to recognise an intriguing piece of theatre and Phil Willmott’s Encounter which he also wrote and directs ticks boxes that the ATS are keen to get ticked, Maintaining their policy of being the own full time LGBT theatre in the UK staging thought proving and hugely entertaining plays. David Shields striking set of a 1940’s railway station merged with the greyness of one of the main characters sitting room acts as a wonderful platform for the actors to perform on. For once the noise of the trains running overhead is not a distraction to the actors in fact it heightens the action and is a bonus that enhances the rhythm of this play. This is a pot boiler of a play and there is a vibrant chemistry between the cast members especially, a very sexy, virile and passionate Alexander Huetson as Arthur Hollis and his co star Adam Lilley as Dr Lawrence Marsh. Willmott has no hesitation in exploring the issues of class and that lust for a bit of rough. There is also an inspired bit of casting in the form of Penelope Day playing two roles of Sarah Marsh and Mavis Madden and for those in the know there is a splendid in joke here relating to the original film .Superbly atmospheric due to Elliott Griggs muted lighting and Phil Hewitt sound design and with the wonderful use of music swelling in volume as the emotional elements of scenes build, Typical of British 1940’s films, This is an inspired piece of theatre and where I found it slightly disjointed in places and the last 5 mins questionable. This is a story about understanding and what was truly at risk for gay men in an England post war 1947. Wilmott has, via his actors and the crew staged a enthralling and intelligent piece of theatre that deserves to be a seen. 3 stars

Runs to the November 15th at Above the Stag, Arch 17, Miles Street, London SW8 1RZ. Box office: www.abovethestag.com