There’s a curious logic to the apprehension we all have when going to watch a stage adaptation of a beloved classic novel. The classic in question here is Rebecca, whose stage production by Kneehigh Theatre came to The Lowry last night to bring Daphne du Maurier’s gothic Manderley to the Lyric Theatre.
Award winning artistic director Emma Rice’s uniquely hilarious interpretation – suspense and drama in tow – removes all worry and doubt as the compelling production is staged with riveting authority.
A cleverly set-stage with a grand mansion-esque staircase leading to a second floor, meticulously designed costumes, hilarious puppetry, enchanting choreography and an ever-audible rumour of breaking waves all create enough to flesh out the 130 minutes of the episodic play. Rather than simply re-enact the iconic moments we all love in the novel, the characters adhered to the original tale whilst injecting humour and ingeniously exploring the ideas of jealousy and betrayal.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the protagonist is a doe-eyed young woman, who meets and falls in love with a mysterious gentleman, Maxim de Winter. Following their marriage, he brings her home to his estate, Manderley. The house, however, and its new mistress, are both haunted by the presence of Maxim’s beautiful first wife, Rebecca, who drowned a year earlier, and whose memory is kept pulsing by the terrifying housekeeper, Mrs Danvers.
Playing the new Mrs de Winter is Imogen Sage, who has a delicate but timely forcefulness when need be. The story is does not demand a much nuanced performance from the characters as it’s a very in-your-face tale, but Mrs de Winter delivers a convincing and subtle bewildered young woman trying to fit in a world that “is just not me”.
The production’s ingenious choreography provides enough mirth to break up the tension in Manderley – the enthusiastic dance routines that synched well with ardent Jasper (the Labrador) for example.
With live music on set – with the violinist a particular winner – the production’s compositions are moving and compliment the intermittent scenes in well-timed fashion to the appreciative humming of the packed auditorium.
Judging by the thunderous applause and positive whistling that echoed around auditorium as this opening night came to a close; many agreed that Rice’s production works.
TNT Culture Yasin Chinembiri