Some, among the near capacity first night audience, will not have seen the iconic 1948 film based on the brilliant Noël Coward script.

For both newcomers and those who are familiar with the original, with darkly-brooding Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson and Trevor Howard as Alec Harvey, this stands up as poignant, thought-provoking and seasonally appropriate (Valentine’s), with resonance today, as it had in its WWII time.

A professional cast, led by Jenny Seagrove and Martin Shaw, hold intimate court on a stage dressed as an eclectic period radio studio. The brilliantly poignant Coward script is interspersed with light-hearted moments, not least by the vocal skills of Simon Shepherd, Roy Marsdon (the show’s director), Sara Crowe and Caroline Langrishe, with Shepherd and Marsdon taking on dual voice roles.

The dourly diligent sound effects man Jared Ashe provides comic relief from the emotional tension of the star-crossed lovers. Holding centre stage throughout, Jenny Seagrove makes a convincing Laura – giddy, wrought, sad and endearing, while her male counterpart, Martin Shaw, as Laura’s romantic nemesis, is rock solid in the role he plays with a degree of stoic understatement.

In the film original, Laura appears to be a somewhat limp and self-deluding heroine yet, in the context of the social mores that existed in her world, she could not ‘win’ whichever choice she made. In today’s depiction of Brief Encounter, at a time when Hollywood opines the dearth of strong female lead roles, here we have a fine example of its genre. Seagrove’s delivery reveals Shaw’s dashing doctor character in a new light.

Laura experiences the lion’s share of humiliation when interrupted by Alec’s flatmate; she has the most explaining to do at home – caught in the glaring and knowing scrutiny of her social network.

The wealthy, handsome doctor has the means to trolley off to South Africa at the first whiff of scandal, with hapless wife and children in tow, unscathed, leaving Laura to pick up the bits. Laura says, women of that time were led to believe they would be scooped up by a knight on a white charger.

Now we know that 1% hold 99% of the world’s wealth, so rich, handsome knights driving white Maseratis are thin on the ground. A partner who loves you through thick and thin – no contest.

At a time when housewives struggled to feed their families, Alec took Laura to lunch and plied her with champagne, and later opines: “It is never easy to be in love’. Empathy? No. Enjoy Coward’s observations on love, loss, longing and yearning to belong. A theatrical treat.

Brief Encounter runs until Saturday, February 21, at Theatre Royal Windsor, in Thames Street. Performance times: Monday to Saturday evenings at 8pm, Thursday matinee 2.30pm, Saturday matinee 4.45pm. To book, visit or call the box office on 01753 853 888.

Coming up: Three Men In A Boat, Monday, February 23, to Saturday, February 28.