An Old Fashioned, Well Mannered Love Story

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing The Remains Of The Day at the Union Theatre in Waterloo.

The blurb for the show on the flyer reads as follows – “Darlington Hall lies dormant, its prior distinction a passing memory. Stevens, long-standing and devoted butler to the late Lord Darlington, struggles to meet the needs of his new owner. Convinced he requires more staff in order to remedy his professional woes, Stevens sets out to meet his one-time housekeeper and bring her back to Darlington Hall. But as his journey progresses, Stevens begins to question his former employer’s convictions and wonder if he has lost much more than simply a housekeeper.”

To put it straight, I really enjoyed this show, although I felt it was definitely more about Stevens’ journey in Darlington Hall than his journey to find the housekeeper. Stevens is played by Stephen Rashbrook, who is every inch the dignified butler. His struggle to break free of his responsibilities and live his own life is apparent, and it does make one consider the life of a butler at the time. It is as if his life is not his own – there is not a great deal outside of Darlington Hall – and indeed his professional responsibilities prohibit him from finding romance.

Miss Kenton, the strong willed housekeeper, is played by Lucy Bradshaw, who not only acts the part beautifully and with the upmost conviction, but has a beautiful singing voice to boot.

I loved how you could see what could happen between the two staff members almost from the outset. All the way through the show, and particularly when Stevens was going to meet Miss Kenton (Now married). I found myself willing something to happen between them.

Numerous supporting characters make up a very strong cast, both vocally and in their acting.

I much enjoyed the performance of Dudley Rogers, first as Stevens Senior and then in ensemble roles particularly ‘man on pier’. As Stevens Senior reaches the end of his career, he shows the quiet dignity that those reaching the end of their working life often do, and the character really reaches out to the audience despite not being around for a great amount of the show.

Christopher Bartlett plays Reginald, a young man who in the first half we understand to be engaged to be married. He plays the part with the kind of innocence a twenty something would not have in this day and age, but it fits in fantastically with the period piece. One of my favourite scenes was one in whch Stevens attempted to explain ‘The Facts Of Life’ to young Reginald, only for him to not really ‘get’ it. In the second half, you see Reginal mature a great deal and this is where Bartlett’s vocal talents shine. In “Don’t You Care What His Lordship Does?”, Reginald’s anger at the butler’s professional descretion comes through in a flurry of thrilling vocal talent.

Katia Sartini and Gemma Salter, who play Ruth and Sarah respectively almost broke my heart in ‘Close Your Eyes’. Sartini in particular, I felt, posseses a great deal of vocal talent mixed with an aptitude for making the audence feel how her character, Ruth is feeling. Indeed, all of the ensemble shone in their particular roles but I felt these two were definite standouts.

The Remains Of The Day, in my opinion, is the kind of show that is missing from musical theatre. It has been a long time since I have been taken back to the musical theatre styles and conventions of shows such as The Sound Of Music and Carousel. This show takes you back to when musical theatre consisted mainly of a love story, a serious plot segment, a bit of light relief when things got heavy, followed by an ending that doesn’t quite wrap things up completely.

All in all, a fantastic cast, mixed with a great script and plot, make for a show I would happily recommend to those who enjoy musical theatre – and with tickets at just £15.50 and £12.50 it’s a bargain as well.

The Remains Of The Day runs at the Union Theatre until 25th September.

WEW
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