REVIEW: Rebecca – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Theatre company Kneehigh breathe new life into Daphne du Maurier’s much-loved novel, Rebecca, managing to capture the chills of the classic psychological thriller, the brooding atmosphere of its Cornish setting, as well as suffusing the source material with a large dose of humour.

Played out on Leslie Travers’ exquisitely rendered, visually stunning set, this fast-paced production successfully conveys a sense of place (the sou’wester clad chorus of fishermen singing seas shanties brilliantly evokes the sights and sounds of the Cornish coast) and thankfully the irreverent antics throughout don’t detract from the moments of high drama nor dispel the gripping, dream-like quality that underlies the production.

Imogen Sage as Mrs de Winter in REBECCA photo by Steve Tanner

So far removed tonally from both the 1938 novel or the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film adaptation, those familiar with either may well need time to acclimatise to the artistic choices. However, the moments of innovation do thrill. While it may seem that this classic of English literature has been redrawn as farce – there’s a scene-stealing, crotch obsessed puppet dog, a Wilson, Keppel and Betty sand dance and some Busby Berkeley-type dance interludes, it just all feels right. And when it matters the feeling of foreboding resurfaces and draws you back into this gripping tale.

Imogen Sage as Mrs de Winter in REBECCA photo by Steve Tanner

Emma Rice delivers a sure-footed adaptation and perfectly portrays the second Mrs de Winter’s transformation from timid new bride treading on eggshells, living in the shadow of her late predecessor, to a woman firmly in control of all that surrounds her.

Much of the success of the piece is the effective casting. Kneehigh stalwart Tristan Sturrock is a perfectly judged Maxim as is Imogen Sage as his young bride. There is strong support from Lizzie Winkler and Andy Williams as Maxim’s eccentric sister Bea and her husband Giles and there’s a stand out turn from Katy Owen as servant boy Robert.

For all its eccentricity and irreverence, fans of the original novel as well as those new to the tale will find much to enjoy. Kneehigh’s Rebecca is an original, arresting piece of theatre, miss it if you dare.

Runs until Saturday 7 November 2015 | Images: Steve Tanner

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