Skip to main content

Review of Rebecca by Kneehigh Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

While watching Kneehigh Theatre's interpretation (I use the word advisedly), I imagined a ninety-four year old lady in the audience. When she was seventeen in 1938 she settled down on an evening and read this new novel by Daphne du Maurier. She was gripped by the twists and turns, by the creepy and devilish Mrs Danvers, by the atmospheric detail of the estate of Manderley and its surrounding area. My fictional seventeen year old was gripped. Seventy-seven years later her seventy-one year old son took her to the local theatre to see that novel, Rebecca on stage. During the performance that lady thought she had taken too many of the drugs her doctor had prescribed.

It's safe to say that for the purist of du Maurier, Rebecca doesn't quite give you what you either might want or expect. What it does though is create a very fun and inventive interpretation. We have the eleven strong and multi-skilled cast performing dance routines, singing sea shanties, playing musical instruments on stage and yes, acting alongside a puppet dog. It shouldn't work, but it does. It even in the sometimes quite bizarre environment manages to tell the story (with obvious omissions). It truly is much better than it deserves to be and if you can fly with the style provides a great evening of entertainment.

At the centre of the action are three very strong performances and one that you will either get uproariously or be irritated by. First the sure bets. The delightfully delicate Imogen Sage is a most wonderful Mrs de Winter, portraying the huge transition that the character takes during the story with ease. The character too frightened to mention a cracked vase early on is a very different person to that of the last few minutes, but the passage is acted perfectly to make it believable.

More clear cut is Emily Raymond's wicked and cold Mrs Danvers. From that opening stare at Mrs de Winter it is clear she is a piece of work. Raymond is perfect with sleek backed hair and stern face at all times, it is a very scary stalking performance. Andy Williams as Giles is also another well pitched performance, careful in his interpretation so as to never to give away the true motives too early. Quite perfect.

The marmite performance I suspect is Katy Owen. From many in the audience that I was overhearing (as I like to do), she was the star of the show as Robert. Small, yet super big in performance, she was indeed a scene stealer and personally I loved her (albeit not the star of the show) including those foolish phone calls and dance moments. I have no doubt though that for those teetering on liking the style of the production, she could have tipped them over the edge.

Another star of the show is the set. One of the most rugged and living breathing I have seen, creating somehow both the tough Cornish coastline and the house of Manderley. It must prove tough work for the cast to traverse, but director Emma Rice still manages to keep things flowing at all times with set changes never an issue as we are either listening to a song or watching a dance. I also loved the movement of time revealed on boards, banners or clothes. A very clever touch. Also neat was the "easter egg" dance routine at the start of the second act, that allowed time for people to return, while also providing entertainment for those already there.

One troubling point I did have and I shall return to my now no doubt startled ninety-four year old for this, were the two moments of swearing in the show. Swearing doesn't offend me (I am a fan of Tarantino), but I don't recall du Maurier using f**k and it was the most incongruous thing of the whole evening and so utterly pointless.

However there is much more to love with Kneehigh's Rebecca than to hate and it is always good to see a challenging different take on something once in a while. I left happy and thrilled and wanting to take the puppet dog home with me.

««««


Performance viewed: Wednesday 11th November, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate).

Rebecca runs until Saturday 14th November, 2015 before continuing its tour. Details here: http://www.rebeccatheplay.com/

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Cilla - The Musical at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I have to start with a confession dear reader, what I know about Cilla Black can pretty much be written on the back of the Derngate ticket that I clutched on entering the theatre (and that allows for the advert on the back). I have heard a couple of her tunes of course (more than once) and confess, once again, that I generally didn't like what I heard. I think it's clear that with her natural raw form and voice, "a diamond in the rough" as Brian Epstein, her eventual manager describes her, she a performer that you either love or generally, not hate as such, but perhaps just dislike. I fall in the latter. Curiously as I a forty-year-old, I also don't even fall into the Cilla of hit television either, being a BBC viewing family, I never saw her on TV much when I was growing up.

So, coming almost totally fresh to the world of Cilla, it was a little comforting that for the first act, much of the world of Cilla - The Musical revolves not just around star building Cil…

Review of Woman In Mind by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I like Alan Ayckbourn, I may only have seen a few of his vast array of plays previously, but all have been a delight, often crazy yes, but constantly funny, and especially in the second act spiralling often into just on the very edge of believable nonsense. With Woman In Mind, acknowledged by many as one of his finest works, my own personal jury is very much out on whether I liked it or not.
What was very good, mostly, however, were the performances, most especially the two that we are introduced to at the very beginning. The prostrate Susan (Nicola Osborne), with sinisterly lurking rake alongside her, and the bag struggling doctor, Bill (John Myhill).
Nicola Osborne has the unenviable task in this play of never leaving the stage, a feat in itself. Add to this the constant weaving of the character's world (more on this later), and you have a role featuring some significant challenge, one that Osborne ably surmounts. I once described Osborne as a "safe pair of hands" in …

Press launch of Sting's The Last Ship at Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton

On Friday 16th February 2018, I attended the official press launch of The Last Ship. In attendance were the writer of the show, Sting, and cast members for the 2018 UK tour Richard Fleeshman, Charlie Hardwick and Joe McGann, with musical support from Rob Mathes.

During the event, opened entertainingly by producer Karl Sydow, Sting and the cast members performed seven of the songs from the show: The Last Ship (Sting), Dead Man's Boots (Sting and Fleeshman), Sail Away (Hardwick), The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance (Fleeshman), What Say You Meg? (Fleeshman) and What Have You Got? (Sting and cast).

Each of these songs showed us a great background to the evocative tale that The Last Ship tells, of a community under attack as its crucial shipbuilding industry begins to fail. The performers and Sting himself delivered the songs with huge passion, despite, as Sting himself commented, the earnestness of the hour, with the event beginning at 10 am.

The Last Ship was initially inspired …