‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…’ Â So starts Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel of jealousy, intrigue and suspense, and so begins (and ends) Kneehigh Theatre Company’s production of Rebecca, currently touring at the Kings Theatre, Edinburgh.
Director, Emma Rice,Â takes a bold approach in her one-set, curtainless stage, where the stately Manderley and the Cornish beach are one, and the boat is a wine cellar – the staging is Leslie Travers’ inspiration – which largely pays off. Â The play is wonderfully eerie, menacing at times, yet with a curiously light touch brought, not least, by the fishermen and servants’ choruses.
Maxim de Winter (Tristan Sturrock) has just brought home his young bride to a house ruled by housekeeper, Mrs Danvers (Emily Raymond) who was devoted to his first wife, Rebecca. As events unfold, the new Mrs De Winter (Imogen Sage) blossoms from the shy newcomer into a force equal to them all. Â Sage is perfectly cast; compelling and believable from start to finish, and works well with Sturrock’s brooding darkness. Â Emily Raymond competently manages her poker-faced and unbending characterÂ – but is she menacing, manipulative enough? Â She simply doesn’t seem old enough to be Mrs Danvers. On the other hand, Ewan Wardrop’s playboy, Jack Favell, and Beatrice and Giles (Lizzie Winkler and Andy Williams respectively) are convincing – and fun. Katy Owen deserves a special mention for her excellent portrayal of both Welsh footman, Robert, and Ben, who lives in fear of the asylum.
There is deliberate comedy amidst the malevolence, and at times I wondered why. But overall it made for an entertaining whole. As Emma Rice herself says, ‘I have taken liberties that I hope du Maurier would approve of, all in the name of a good night out.’ It’s certainly the latter; what Daphne du MaurierÂ would make of Â her ‘study in jealousy’, Â where ‘a tragedy is looming very close’, Â being reframed in these terms, I’m not quite so sure.
Rebecca is playing at the Kings Theatre, Edinburgh, until Saturday 24th October.
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