It’s a rare treat to see Still Life, Noel Coward’s original short play, which was then developed into the hugely-popular film Brief Encounter.

And this exquisite production is pitch perfect in capturing the times and style of forbidden 1940s middle-class love.

Before the main event, A Coward Curtain Raiser was performed by Nick Edgeworth, Will Hooper and Helen McCraw, giving us an outline of his life and works, and songs from his extensive repertoire.

It set the tone perfectly for the evening, and the three then stormed their roles in Still Life.

Many of us know where a piece of grit in Laura’s eye leads to when Doctor Alec Harvey steps in to save her sight.

They are both married with children, and although they never take their affair too far, the social codes and demands of the day mean that lips must stay stiff, and their farewell is disrupted by the arrival of insensitive Dolly Messiter, meaning our lovers never even get the tearful farewell they deserve.

It’s a beautifully-pitched production, outstanding performances from all concerned, not least Laura Jesson as Laura and Wayne Setford as Alec who are perfect in the roles.

Director Andrew Hodgson wisely retains the framing device from the film, so when Dolly interrupts them at the end, (brilliant Jayne Sheeran), you want to shout at the woman to get out of the way!

Review of play Still Life. Picture: Sally Parkinson

Review of play Still Life. Picture: Sally Parkinson

Being Coward, the lower classes are the comedy roles, and Elly Kent-Dyson is wonderful as the Duchess of the Tea Room, Myrtle, flirting as much as she allows with Albert, (Will Hooper, perfect), and we see Beryl, (Helen McCraw, again, perfect), enjoying an illicit hug with her beau Stanley, (Nick Edgeworth…perfect), while all Laura and Alec can do is briefly hold hands.

It’s deeply moving.

It’s performed on an incredible set, lit beautifully and the sound is so authentic you expect an express train to rush past the auditorium.

When the cream buns look so delicious you want to nick one, you know you’re onto a winner! Perfect.

Reviewed by PAUL T DAVIES