Rebecca- Mayflower Southampton Until 5th December

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again ……….? Well actually I did because I saw Rebecca the play at the Mayflower Southampton. Was it as great as I’d remembered it?

I first saw this production earlier on in its tour at the Richmond Theatre. Produced by Kneehigh who are a UK-based theatre company with a local, national and international profile. For over 30 years Kneehigh have created vigorous, popular and challenging theatre and perform with the joyful anarchy that audiences have come to expect from this groundbreaking company.

Rebecca first published in 1938 with its famous film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock is undeniably a story full of intrigue, jealousy and layered intensities.

Daphne Du Maurier was just 30 at the time of writing this epic novel and given its depths it is an exceptional achievement in one so young. It is not without expectation though as she wrote her first best seller “Jamaica Inn” in her 20’s. Du Maurier was a successful writer, had three lovely children and a happy marriage and yet she harboured immense insecurities about her husbands former lover. There was also still a part of Du Maurier was a vulnerable child who was constantly frightened of losing her fathers affections. Having read this, I can certainly see how the story of “Rebecca” came about.

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Photo Credit Steve Tanner

The opening scene depicting the “drowning” of Rebecca is visually stunning. The stage design of Leslie Travers throughout is breathtakingly good and sets the scene for an evening of exquisite entertainment. An atmospheric ambience with incredible ingenuity is a running theme throughout. The Cornish fishing village with the gentry house called Manderley, home to the De Winters was delightfully created. The play takes place over the summer period culminating on the Ball for midsummer. Whilst the action creates the idea of warmth the coldness cast by the late Rebecca is palpable.

Newly wed Mrs De Winter played by Imogen Sage is a delicate childlike bride who is completely captivating feeling her way and place in life at the family home with a wonderful awkwardness. Hopelessly and completely besotted, you can’t help but feel her anxiety and love. Joined by her husband Tristan Sturrock who immediately shows the stiff upper lipped side of an English 1920’s gentleman whilst effusive of a darker side to his nature. The fact that there is a hidden secret soon becomes evident and the story unfolds. Adding further complication to proceedings as lothario Jack Favell played by Ewan Wardrop. Wardrop plays a cad however you do realise that he was just another victim of Rebecca, she is incapable of love. Whilst you dislike his involvement in Rebecca’s infidelity you feel sorry that for once he has lost his heart. Considering the limited time on stage the fact that you do feel this is testament to Wardrop’s fine performance and direction of Emma Rice

Lizzie Winkler as Beatrice is simply divine. Her accent and acting as the frivolous, fun-loving, free-spirited sister is a sheer delight and plays beautifully opposite her doting, if not long-suffering husband (Giles) Andy Williams.

Comic delivery which breaks the darkness of this piece is provided by Katy Owen when playing footman Robert and she shows depth of character when portraying the bereaved boy Ben, patiently waiting for his father to return from his sea grave.

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Photo Credit Steve Tanner

Emily Raymond as housekeeper Mrs Danvers comes into her own in the second act. Is she sinister, manipulative, misguided, evil, or she simply devoted to the late Rebecca all of these feelings are stirred by her superb acting.

The effective lighting design (Tim Lutkin)and the sound quality was of a particularly high standard. Other highlights was the clever use of music, choreography and puppetry especially the ingenious family dog.

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Photo Credit Steve Tanner

So in summary yet again I was completely mesmerised by Rebecca and I would urge you to go and see it at your next opportunity it really is an evening of immense enjoyment and not to be missed. The ingenuity, casting, direction and staging are simply perfection personified!

Rebecca – Mayflower Southampton (Touring)

★★★★

By Caroline Hanks-Farmer

 

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