Review: Rebecca, Cambridge Arts Theatre, until Saturday


This is an extraordinary stage adaptation of a brilliant novel.


Rebecca needs little introduction and Daphne Du Maurier’s story of a young and innocent bride unable to fill the shoes of the first Mrs De Winter and taunted by the fearsome housekeeper Mrs Danvers is well known.

With everything from sea shanties to dance, physical theatre to comedy, dramatic lighting and an amazing set designed by Leslie Travers, this production, adapted and directed by Emma Rice, steps somewhat away from the normal drawing-room drama the Rebecca tale usually inspires.

Not always easy to retell such a well-known and well-loved story, this adaptation essentially adds some humour and takes away some gothic horror.

Du Maurier purists might not like all of the slightly flippant humour – and top marks to Katy Owen as Robert – but to compare it to the novel or the Hitchcock film probably misses the point and there’s no doubt this is a finely acted and superbly staged interpretation of a celebrated novel.

Entertaining from start to finish, a lot of skills and talent is brought to bear by the Kneehigh Theatre team who double and treble up as actors, musicians and dancers.

There are some clever touches – the up-down chandelier, the star dust sprinkled on Jack Favell’s entrance, the clever fireplace, the puppet dog Jasper.

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And as the plot unfurls the audience is left in no doubt this is a Cornish tale through and through and the second Mrs De Winter, adroitly played by Imogen Sage, grows up, takes charge, learns to smoke and banishes Rebecca to the past.

Mrs Danvers finally goes mad in a stunning finale complete with a brood of ethereal torch carrying fishermen.

This is like no other Rebecca I have ever seen.

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