Brief Encounters – Review – Bradford Interchange


Brief Encounters – Review

Bradford Interchange, October 2015

by Sandra Callard

And now for something completely different. This is a theatre review, but I have certainly never reviewed anything like the Brief Encounters theatre performance I have just seen. For a start it is staged in the definitely non-theatrical confines of the Bradford Interchange. It is performed by Freedom Studios, a non-profit making theatre company. It exists on grants from the Arts Council to bring theatre to the masses. And it most surely to goodness did that. Writer Rav Sanghera says he wants to show the ‘’brilliant, warm, generous people of Bradford’ as they travel each day through the busy Interchange, and the effect each have on the lives of others.

Brief Encounters-theatreWith a raging storm outside, a bevy of distinctly wet journalists and other interested parties we are packed into a train shelter as two actors gave a lively enactment of two old friends meeting for a school reunion. Space is tight, but the actors do their piece with humour and pathos, in spite of us being elbow to elbow with them.

“Battle against loneliness”

Following our guide we are witnesses to four other scenarios. Each is between two or three characters. One of the scenarios is particularly poignant, as it deals with an asylum seeker who has lost his case and must return to certain death in his own land. As he walks sadly away from a telephone which could not get him in touch with a friend, I feel genuinely sorry for him and want to help. Is this what Sanghera wants to instil in his audience? If so, the closeness of the actors certainly gives a real sense of reality to what we are watching.

Brief Encounters bradford 2015Some of the actors are outstanding. Particularly Kamal Kaan as Ayoub, the asylum seeker, and Stacey Sampson as Karen, the toilet cleaner.

Each of the scenes deal with human nature and its problems, and how others react at being face-to-face with them. The scenarios include one in a ladies’ toilet. The men in the party are obviously uneasy about going inside, but nevertheless relent. There is a particularly moving scene between a middle-aged learner bus driver and her similarly aged instructor as they battle against loneliness towards some kind of relationship.

The acting is good, in some cases superb. The actors are never phased by their mobile audience, or by the passers-by for trains and buses. Most of whom are staring in total incomprehension at what is happening.

“A worthy thing is achieved”

Brief Encounters-bradford interchangeOne young man asks me what is going on. When I say it is a mobile theatre performance, he raises his eyebrows and said “Oh, I see.” There is a quiet acceptance of the bizarre scene before him.

We follow an old lady with a pigeon in her shopping trolley. The travellers in the Interchange who don’t know the score are almost as fascinating to watch as the actors. There is a variety of reactions to the unusual scenes they are witnessing. Some laugh or look bewildered, or perhaps afraid. Some even join in with us as a mobile audience, complete with babies in prams.

There is some pretty good singing from the Boys and Belles Choir. They are in attendance to wing the pigeon on its way as the old lady gives the bird its freedom. Which, frankly, was quite a satisfying end to the performance. I left feeling that a very worthy thing is achieved. Albeit without perhaps knowing exactly what it was.

Photos by Tim Smith


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