Rebecca – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Rebecca – Review

Bradford Alhambra, October 2015

by Sandra Callard

‘Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again’ is one of the most famous opening lines in literature. Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca, written in 1938, has been a constant best seller ever since. The book has been filmed and staged many times. This latest adaptation by Kneehigh Theatre has opened at the Bradford Alhambra.

Rebecca review bradford 2015Du Maurier’s dark story of the eponymous anti-heroine, Rebecca, and the emotional upheaval of those around her in the wake of her death, is brought to life in this production. Impressively directed by Emma Rice, it is like no Rebecca I have ever seen. It twists and turns between atmospheric sea shanties and dark scenes of evil and terror. Then, astoundingly introduces some purely comic interludes. Amazingly, it all gels together in the most compulsive and startling way. Presenting du Maurier’s ‘Study in Jealousy’, as she sub-titled her story, in a new and compelling manner.

“Eerie”

Maxim de Winter, widower of the dead Rebecca, is played with painful repression by Tristan Sturrock. He returns from the south of France with a new young bride, played movingly by Imogen Sage. Throughout she is referred to only as Mrs de Winter. Shy and gauche, she is the antithesis of the glamourous Rebecca. Plus, she is no match for the eerie, Rebecca-obsessed housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. The role is delivered with spooky relish by Emily Raymond.

The de Winters are an odd pair. They are polar opposites in every way. Yet Sturrock and Sage succeed in bringing about a change in the character of each. They slowly gravitate towards one another and become more loving and compatible.

rebecca bradford alhambra

The creative team here, including sets, lighting and music have played a masterful stroke. Everything contributes to an unusually atmospheric production. The stage setting hardly varies. Despite this, it still represents the halls of Manderley, the beach house or, indeed, the sea, as the sunken boat rises from the deep with astonishing ease.  Even de Winter’s dog trots around the stage. Although quite obviously attached to its puppeteer, it still exudes the cute dog-like qualities which evince a collective sigh from the audience.

“Spine-tingling”

De Winter’s sister and her husband, Beatrice and Giles, (Lizzie Winkler and Andy Williams) are a couple of unexpectedly amusing characters. The pair bounce off each other with some cracking repartee. They depict a couple of drunken party-goers with hilarious expertise. They even inject a degree of slapstick as Beatrice executes one of the best drunken falls I have ever seen.

The surprising hits of the show are the fishermen in full oilskin regalia. They sing sea shanties which complement the action, but also add a mysterious warning tone to the story. The songs hint at the horrors to come. Outstanding also is Katy Owen, a diminutive actor who plays both Robert the footman, and Ben, the strange boy from the village. Ben knows and sees things that others don’t. Owen is an agile imp as she prances around the stage at great speed. She makes lurid pronouncements with a catchy Welsh accent. She is superb and received accolades from the audience.

This production is the opposite to what you may have seen before regarding Rebecca. The dark parts are indeed spine-tingling and, as a result, the unexpected humour is a welcome break. It is very different and unique in its story telling. Yet it remains faithful to the famous events of this most memorable of du Maurier’s stories.

images: Steve Tanner

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