King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until 24 October
Then touring until 5 December
Guest reviewer: Susan Lowes
Curiously inventive: Kneehigh Theatre have certainly put their own stamp on Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca, which tours to the King’s for a week.
There’s no doubt that Emma Rice’s adaptation is unique, powerful and faithful to the story, but it’s not quite what you might expect.
The story is the classic tale of Mr Maxim de Winter (Tristan Sturrock) returning to his family home, Manderley, with his new bride, Mrs de Winter (Imogen Sage). Framed through Mrs de Winter’s memories, the audience are led through her first encounters with the family estate and the oppressive and enduring presence of Maxim’s late first wife Rebecca.
Self doubt and jealousy soon take over until a climactic evening at the costume ball threatens to tear the new couple apart. And that’s where the mystery really begins.
Daphne Du Maurier’s story is a gothic tale, full of love, paranoia and obsession. It’s dark and it’s eerie and it’s full of simmering emotion. These elements are all present in Kneehigh’s version and yet Rice, who also directs, has added a further dimension – humour.
Lizzie Winkler and Andy Williams. Photo: Steve Tanner
During the first act in particular, the production could almost be mistaken for a slapstick comedy. It’s absurd and it’s farcical and it succeeds in dispelling any tension and suspense. From Maxim’s overbearing and debauched sister Beatrice (Lizzie Winkler) and her libatious husband Giles (Andy Williams) to the freshly created camp, Welsh servant character Robert (Katy Owens) it feels oddly like a Carry On film.
At times this does sit somewhat awkwardly alongside Du Maurier’s original brooding drama. And yet, somehow, it eerily works. It’s definitely not what is expected from Rebecca, but it is undeniably engaging and draws laughter from the audience.
Such a feat can only work through the efforts of the talented cast. Andy Williams is superb as he flounces drunkenly around the stage alongside his belly-dancing wife. Katy Owens as Robert brings an unprecedented level of energy to the stage and displays some rather impressive dance moves.
weight and tension
The darker side to the drama is allowed to unfurl within the second act. And this is the master stroke of Rice’s direction. A tale such as Rebecca needs its weight and its tension.
Imogen Sage. Photo: Steve Tanner
Imogen Sage transitions wonderfully from a shy, weak self conscious young woman into a strong, confident leader. As her character builds and takes charge, her husband Maxim’s character does the opposite. Consumed by his own actions, Tristan Sturrock takes him from the cultured, confident Lord of the manor to a man on the verge of breakdown.
All the while, this combination of levity and gravity is accompanied by sound designer Simon Baker’s folksy musical interludes to the tune of a sea shanty, and is played out on Leslie Travers’ dynamic and thoughtfully functional and impressive set.
There’s so much to like within this production. And also so much to be unsure about. As the curtain closes there’s a sense of awe, but also one of disbelief. It’s a curious and puzzling combination.
Running time 2 hours 15 mins including interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 19 – Saturday 24 October 2015
Evenings 7:30pm; Matinees Wed and Sat 2:30pm
Details and tickets from: http://www.edtheatres.com/rebecca
Rebecca on tour 2015:
Mon 19 – Sat 24 Oct
0131 529 6000
Mon 26 – Sat 31 Oct
Mon 2 – Sat 7 Nov
0844 871 7648
Mon 9 – Sat 14 Nov
Royal & Derngate
Mon 16 – Sat 21 Nov
Mon 23 – Sat 28 Nov
0114 249 6000
Mon 30 Nov – Sat 5 Dec
Imogen Sage ( Mrs de Winter) and the cast of Rebecca. Photo: Steve Tanner