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 Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c

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)