Thursday, 15 November 2018

A weird and (quite) wonderful Rebecca

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”: the iconic opening line of Daphne du

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”: the iconic opening line of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca. And on Monday, I went to Manderley, or, rather, the Wycombe Swan, where Kneehigh Theatre treated a mostly-women audience to their own special take on this dark classic.

However, this was a Manderley far removed from du Maurier’s Gothic mansion in a version of Rebecca like no other.

It was good. Indeed, it was very good, but this was a Rebecca that had been stripped back to its basics and then given a modern overhaul. It was (mostly) light-hearted, occasionally even risqué and raunchy. It included music from onstage musicians, puppets, comedy and dancing. The atmospheric backdrop â?? from cheery to gathering gloom â?? was excellently portrayed using traditional folk songs from a chorus of Cornish seamen.

Director Emma Rice had adapted the story from du Maurier’s novel while retaining the central premise. Following the mysterious death of his first wife Rebecca, Maxim de Winter returns to his Cornish country estate, Manderley, with his youthful bride.

As time wears on, she becomes consumed by paranoia as the ghost of the extrovert and feisty Rebecca comes to haunt herâ?¦

Anyone expecting a conventional stage version of the Oscar-winning Hitchcock classic or who know the book well might have been disappointed with Rice’s portrayal. This adaptation did lack the punch and menace of the original. Disappointingly, the Mrs Danvers character (Emily Raymond), the intimidating and sinister housekeeper who adored “my lady” Rebecca, merely came across as unfriendly.

But this was the time to forget about Rebecca versions past and to sit back and enjoy this, albeit different, rendering and to look at characters with fresh eyes.

There were some very good performances throughout. Tristan Sturrock showed a playful side to the normally austere and remote Maxim while Lizzie Winkler and Andy Williams were a hilarious comedy double act as his full-on sister and brother-in-law Bea and Giles. Katy Owen was absolutely brilliant as pint-sized Welsh footman Robert, a comic genius in the making and who almost stole the show.

But it was the Mrs de Winter character, nicely portrayed by Imogen Sage, to which Rice’s adaptation has given new depths. As events unfolded and her husband needed support, she flourished from dowdy, insecure nobody to being steely strong and feisty. Pretty much like Rebecca perhaps? Intriguing.

Performances continue until Saturday.

Review by Carol Evans

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