Venue: The Mayflower Southampton

Emma Rice of Kneehigh fame has adapted and directed this jumbled production of Rebecca ; a well-loved 1938 book by Daphne Du Maurier. Alfred Hitchcock turned his hand to creating an adaptation in the 1940’s, and each haunting production tells the tale of intrigue and jealousy.

The titular character is Maxim de Winter’s first wife Rebecca. Whilst it was never shown in the production, it is established that she disappeared out at sea a few months prior. Mr De Winter has since remarried and the new Mrs De Winter is trying to settle in to the Cornish Manderley Estate, desperate to win over its resident’s and step out of the shadow of her predecessor.

Newcomer Imogen Sage and Kneehigh Regular Tristan Sturrock do a resounding job portraying the ups and downs of their relationship, however, the adaptation is haphazard at best and its broken storytelling often left me thoroughly confused. The comedic use of a puppeteered dog and a young Welsh servant raised a laugh from the audience despite it being out of place with the dramatic and dark nature of the story; and thus stops it building to a peak. A strangely placed roly-poly, that quite frankly should have stayed in primary school PE, along with the bizarre use of freestanding windows being held up by members of the cast were beyond me.  A redeeming quality was the use of Cornish sea-shanties throughout, which the musical lover in me appreciated. The music pushed the story forward and added to the gothic and haunting atmosphere.

Rebecca is a visually stunning production complete with Leslie Travers’ astonishing set transporting you inside the Manderley estate quickly. One moment a broken boat, the next a Manderley wine cellar; the set flows from the indoors to the outdoors effortlessly.  Coupled with Tim Lutkin’s lighting design, the intensity of the Summer at Manderley is captured perfectly. I can find no faults with the set of Rebecca, it’s just a shame that the story didn’t match up to it as highly.

Rebecca is a muddled production that has resulted in equally as muddled opinions in my head. Whist this wasn’t particularly my cup of tea, there is no denying that it’s a beautifully staged production with redeeming elements; however I just feel a bit “meh” about the whole affair.


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