Bradford Interchange was the unusual setting for Rav Sanghera’s new play Brief Encounters. The production took on a very local theme and the content was inspired by actual conversations picked up in places just like the Interchange.
The hour-long production took the form of a tour around the site, each group of playgoers starting from different sections of the building and bumping into the brief encounters of the title, with characters flowing from conversation to conversation. Whether a pair of old friends exploring what it means to grow old and change to the soundtrack of Mel and Kim in the station waiting room, a frank discussion between strangers about life and mortality, or how first impressions aren’t always the correct ones between a second generation immigrant and a new asylum seeker, each vignette was a joy to watch.
Brief Encounters was a very visual and involving production, with clever use of locations and space alongside observations about Bradford and immigration. Whether a tale of reluctant love told on a bus or a choir performing Embrace songs, the production was a constantly evolving and well captured series of conversations between people, finely performed by the ensemble actors and using locations to great effect, from the aforementioned bus to a touching discussion with a surprising twist in the ladies toilets. The fact that the action took place amongst the audience as if we were flies on the wall was very involving and added to the realistic and gritty performances It felt like a true exploration of characters and scenarios, culminating in a very surprising crescendo with a song at the end.
The fact that it took place in and around the everyday activity of both stations added a fun twist as you tried to work out who was cast and who was commuter (even if a few eccentric or younger Bradfordians were occasionally a little too keen on interrupting the production). This came along with visits to usually off-limits areas, and it’s kudos to Freedom Studios and the Interchange management team for making it happen.
It’s difficult to highlight any particular contributors as standouts, as the ensemble cast were uniformly captivating to watch, but Florence Wilson and Jane Steele as the old friends reunited were a punchy start to the production, the touching moments between Julie Edwards and Dennis Conlon on the bus were heart-warming, and Emma Ashton and Stacey Sampson’s cubicle counselling the most thought-provoking of the sections.
Mixing in humour with pathos and some genuine surprises, my hour-long experience in the company of the actors was time well spent. The warmth of the script and performances contrasted beautifully with the chilliness of the night, and the exploration of the building was a joy.