BRIEF Encounter, the 1946 film written by Noel Coward and directed by David Lean, seems to have lost its soul in translation to stage.

The film itself achieved near-perfection and still has the power to grip - the love affair between a suburban housewife and a doctor agonisingly portrayed by the brilliant coupling of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.

By comparison - and it's impossible not to compare - Karen Drury and Richard Walsh were dull and passionless. Johnson and Howard gave the impression of battling against uncontrollable desires, but these two seemed like they could take it or leave it.

On stage, the play's comic elements, used in the film as a subtle counterpoint to the lovers' tragic plight, came close to ruining the drama. Even as the tortured lovers met for one last awful time, some audience members were still convulsed with laughter at some overplayed piece of business.

Some things, however well-intentioned, are just wrong. This, sadly, was one of them.