Skip to main content

Review of The Remains Of The Day at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is regarded as a modern classic, a meander through the life of butler Stevens as he nears the end of his life, and looks back on many things that might have been different, and might certainly have been better. For this latest Made in Northampton production, director Christopher Haydon brings Barney Norris' sharp adaptation to the stage with more than a hint of style and slickness.

The central point from this production and your constant presence (he leaves the stage once to grab a coat, while one of the slick cast led set changes occur) is Stephen Boxer as Stevens. Perhaps one of the more remarkable performances on the Royal stage you might have seen in recent years, his clipped delivery and rigidness as the dutiful butler is simply astounding. So much is the brilliance you are witnessing as you see just a butler on stage, and not a hint of acting going on, that a couple of moments where the guard of emotion slips hit home so much more powerfully. Boxer is amazing, simply put, and every bit the emotion-free butler of the day.

Not to say that this is the only point of brilliant acting going on, the whole cast here are top notch. Niamh Cusack as Miss Kenton the housemaid is often the complete emotional opposite of Stevens, seeing the wrong in some duties they have to undertake, and also beyond the job, as the butler is never able to, which sadly leads to where his life ends up.

The rest of the cast have multiple roles, and some of them are quite remarkable in their diversity. I challenge anyone to not be astounded by the moment that Sadie Shimmin leaves Mrs Taylor behind to become Mme Depont, I know I did a double take.

Miles Richardson is a brilliantly refined Darlington, an unlikeable character with his views, but also deadpan funny in his exchange with Stevens over godson's Reginald's knowledge of the birds and the bees. As Reginald himself, Edward Franklin balances his scenes of joviality and those over his godfather's opinions extremely well, making him one of the more likeable characters in the play.

Norris' adaptation is always slick with Haydon's direction, but early on it takes its time to get going, and it can take a little time also to get used to the timeshifts, although these are well signposted by Mark Howland's excellent lighting. Once you have got used to the style though, this becomes a much more entertaining piece of theatre, and the second half, in particular, is very strong, and never drags as a result.

Lily Arnold's set consists mostly of huge great sweeping panels which Andrzej Goulding's video forms a nice backdrop on (despite sadly dropping out a couple of times during the performance). At the back is a slightly questionable decision to have a return of angled mirrors, seen very recently to better effect in the Made in Northampton's The Lovely Bones. It feels generally unneeded until perhaps that quite brilliant final scene, where you can almost forgive their presence, a moment that you will linger I suspect in many peoples minds.

The Remains of the Day in this form is remarkably solid, an emotional rollercoaster of a story that in principle very little happens. A slight memoir of a butler, but one with huge power. It is more often Boxer's show, however, none of this diminishes from a very strong cast. Highly recommended.

A stylish adaptation of Ishiguro's play featuring a remarkable performance by Stephen Boxer.
⭐⭐

Performance reviewed: Wednesday 28th February 2019 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.
The Remains of the Day runs at Royal & Derngate until Saturday 16 March 2019 before touring until May.

For further details about the Royal & Derngate see their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk

Photos: Iona Firouzabadi

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Market Boy by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have now written a little over two hundred and fifty reviews on this blog (yes I know, amazing. I am sorry). Most shows I have enjoyed, many I have given four star reviews, a good number have also got that lofty five stars from me. There is however hiding among them five star reviews, another tier of brilliance. One that lies in my head, where everything comes together to go beyond that five, but where I have nothing left to give. The play, the performances, the staging, and perhaps even more to elevate what is a personal opinion as a review, an actual personal emotional feeling or connection towards the piece.
Market Boy written by David Eldridge and performed by the Royal & Derngate Actors Company will (spoiler intended) receive five stars from me at the end of this review. However as that first paragraph suggests, this was one of those that went a little further for me. Set in what I happily claim as my decade and featuring throughout the music of that decade, which I claim …

Review of Benidorm Live at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

I arrived at Milton Keynes Theatre to see this touring stage version of ITV comedy hit Benidorm with a distinct lack of knowledge. Having never seen the show, my information stretched as far as knowing it was set in a holiday resort in Spain (the title helps there), and that the humour generally resorted to the cruder end of the spectrum. However, having graced the screens for ten years, it was clear that Derren Litten's show had garnered quite a following, and indeed it was clear from the reception of the audience on the night, that this following was pretty much filling the theatre.

The plot, such as it is for this stage show, is very much drafted from an episode of Fawlty Towers, and made a great deal more adult with its humour. The hotel manager, Joyce Temple-Savage (a sharp performance by Sherrie Hewson) gets wind that a hotel inspector is in, and the scene is set for seeking them out and all the obvious cases of mistaken identity. It's thin and doesn't fill the show,…

Review of Hacktivists by Ben Ockrent performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The National Theatres Connections series of plays had been one of my highlights of my trips to R&D during 2014. Their short and snappy single act style kept them all interesting and never overstaying their welcome. So I was more than ready for my first encounter with one of this years Connections plays ahead of the main week of performances at R&D later in the year.

Hacktivists is written by Ben Ockrent, whose slightly wacky but socially relevant play Breeders I had seen at St James Theatre last year. Hacktivists is less surreal, but does have a fair selection of what some people would call odd. Myself of the other hand would very much be home with them. So we are presented with thirteen nerdy "friends" who meet to hack, very much in what is termed the white hat variety. This being for good, as we join them they appear to have done very little more than hacked and created some LED light device.

Crashing in to spoil the party however comes Beth (Emma-Ann Cranston) and…