Out of Joint production seen at the Bristol Old Vic.
Based on the prize winning novel by Kzuro Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day is a poignant story of regret. Director Christopher Haydon and Out of Joint theatre company have turned the profound tragedy of this story into a gently moving production.
Butler Stevens, played to precision by Stephen Boxer, draws the audience into his life of service and unquestioning obedience to his employer at Darlington Hall. As the past and present timelines are deftly created with cleverly choreographed scene changes and simple, effective lighting, the audience is enveloped in the 'below stairs' drama between Stevens and Miss Kenton (Niamh Cusack). Initially, her 'prickly' portrayal was grating but eventually softened and ultimately she becomes the frustrated housekeeper who is struggling to come to terms with the butler’s unswerving loyalty and adherence to protocol even in times of personal grief.
The ensemble cast play multiple roles. Notable among these Stephen Critchlow as Morgn/Sir David switching between characters with imperceptible ease and conviction. As Morgan in the West Country pub (where Stevens spends the night after car trouble en route to Cornwall) he is irresistibly watchable. Pub landlady and Mme Dupont are expertly characterised by Sadie Shimmin. Making these the most memorable scenes of the rather sluggish first act.
Dialogue at times is repetitive and feels awkward; particularly in exchanges between Stevens and Kenton and Lord Darlington (sadly a disappointing caricature portrayal by Miles Richardson with awkward affectations).
Nevertheless, the simplicity of an elegant set works well and thanks to the pace and direction in the second act it’s an enjoyable evening of theatre.