Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel examines the repressed emotions of a butler in an estate house between the wars. As the nature of musical theatre is to heighten the emotional content of the story with song, Alex Loveless musical adaptation was always going to be a struggle. Loveless has written a couple of fine ballads here, but his approach to the material lacks finesse and many of the remaining numbers are pedestrian at best, or at worst cliche.
Stephen Rashbrook (Stephens) in Remains of the Day at the Union theatre, London Photo: Michael Brydon
Loveless has actually written an engaging libretto, but there are key musical opportunities present that are simply never seized.
This said, there are strong production values present and a good ensemble cast led by Stephen Rashbrook as the butler Stevens and Lucy Bradshaw in a charming performance as Miss Kenton. Rashbrook, while not a particularly strong singer, provides the focus for the story and Bradshaw is utterly sublime as the strong-minded housekeeper. Theirs is the emotional journey that demands a musical treatment, but too much time is spent examining other themes.
David Shields’ thoughtful set design cleverly divides the acting space, but could be better served by a more imaginative lighting design. Omar F Okai’s choreography is bold, but tends to intrude on the emotional timbre of the piece, and Chris Loveless’ direction is fluid but occasionally lacks cohesion, in simpatico with the material.