Bristol Old Vic

Remains of the Day

May 2019

Remains of life of servitude

The story is about loyalty, class, service and failed politics! Sound familiar?

Many who will see this new adaptation by Barney Norris will have read the book by Kazuo Ishiguro,which won the Booker Prize in 1989 and the film adaptation filmed in part on location in North Somerset in the early 1990s.

It featured the seafront at Clevedon and starred Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.

The film also went on to win accolades but what of this play?

Again we are transported to Darlington Hall and Cornwall by Lily Arnold’s majestic but decaying set of four huge wall segments that shift to and fro, often streaming with water, because in this play it rains, it rains a lot.

This offsets the world of upstairs/downstairs complete with cucumber sandwiches, where life lives at a lulling pace and that never varies.

I found this slightly irritating especially in the closing scene, but is that because we live in such a chaotic world? I will let you decide that.

The story itself takes the form of memories of Stevens, the head butler played impeccably by Stephen Boxer, who is  ramrod straight,repressed but loyal to his master.

Irish actress Niamh Cusack is fantastic in the role of Miss Kenton the wiser but more impatient housekeeper.

The challenge for director Christopher Haydon, was to make the story, set before and after the war coherent.

He succeeds and I really enjoyed the abrupt changes from pre to postwar by slick scene changes and even by a simple change of a hat or coat the fine ensemble switch between several characters.

The themes of antisemitism, Europe,the lack of trust in politics and the appeasement to the coming Nazi threat by Lord Darlington play heavily on our hearts.

What remains with me is that sense of duty of Stevens, so poignantly shown when his father is dying he puts his responsibilities to his master before his own emotions.

Food for thought indeed and far too close to home, it’s almost as if you are slapped round the face by a cucumber sarnie, minus the crusts, of course!

Stephen Morten

  • With only two performances left you will have to be quick to book for Saturday, May 25 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.  For online tickets from £11.50 click HERE.

PHOTOS: Iona Firouzabadi

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