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.
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.
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.
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.
Photos: Iona Firouzabadi