JOYCE MCMILLAN on REBECCA at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 24.10.15. ________________________________________________________
4 stars ****
THERE HAVE BEEN many stage adaptations of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in the past, and there will be many to come; but I doubt whether fans of this great romantic novel will ever see a staging more wildly inventive and creative – and yet more passionately in tune with the powerful narrative backbeat of the story – than this brilliant touring version from Kneehigh Theatre of Truro.
On a stage lusciously bedecked by designer Leslie Travers with the cobwebby ruins of Manderley, the great Cornish house at the centre of the story, the drama unfolds with not the smallest pretence at naturalism, as the novel’s emotional subtext explodes across the stage in the form of a chorus that morphs effortlessly from a platoon of dancing domestic servants to a oilskin-wearing lifeboat crew, while delivering a roster of south-western songs and shanties that only a Cornish company would think of grafting onto Du Maurier’s lush high romance.
Amid all this theatrical sound and fury, though, adaptor and director Emma Rice never for a moment loses sight of the central story, with Imogen Sage turing in a gorgeous, perfectly-pitched performance as the new Mrs. De Winter, gradually evolving from frightened girl to ruthless power wife, while Emily Raymond’s excellent Mrs. Danvers finally decays into madness. And the story’s class politics – always present in Du Maurier’s novel – are here fleshed out into a witty and vivid physical element of the story; as is Maxim de Winter’s beloved hound, played by a gorgeous puppet dog that steals the audience’s heart, and all but steals the show.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, final performances today; His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, next week, and the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, 2-7 November.