CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Review: Rebecca at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

PUBLISHED: 12:36 22 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:36 22 April 2015

Rebecca at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham / Photo: Steve Tanner

Rebecca at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham / Photo: Steve Tanner

Steve Tanner

After watching du Maurier’s psychological thriller brought to the stage, Katie Jarvis is afraid; very afraid… but mainly of reactions to her review, to be honest with you. (PS: the Everyman audiences are loving it.)

So. On the coach with the theatre group, coming back from Rebecca, everyone is buzzing with how brilliant the evening was. “Fantastic entertainment!” “Utterly gripping”. And then the dreaded question. “What did you think, Katie?”

I’m not entirely sure how dangerous theatre groups crossed can be. For a second, I picture that scene in Shaun of the Dead, where an angry mob gathers outside the Winchester Tavern - me inside with a lone rifle - clearly not about to be mollified by a pint of best and a packet of pork scratchings.

“Eu-uu-ell,” I say, looking keenly around the coach for any possible barrel hatch elevators. “It wasn’t really, umm, Rebecca, was it?”

There’s a pause before several people carefully explain to me that turning a book into a stage production is never easy; and that it’s always going to be very different.

Ok. But why do it, then? Why not do something else entirely? If you want a production of camp comedy, pantomime bangs, Olivia Newton-John Grease-type, cigarette-puffing, Sandy-transformations, don’t choose an iconic, dark, brooding, tightly-plotted masterpiece where any giggle is a nervous tic on the brink of a breakdown.

To me, it’s like booking for a Mozart Requiem and discovering, at the last minute, that it’s been replaced by An Evening with Russell Brand.

So I’m being unkind – there were fabulous things about this production. But, you see, don’t mess with it. Don’t mess with it because I love Rebecca; I feel possessive about Rebecca: the only book that’s ever wrong-footed me twice. So shocked me with its labyrinthine twists and turns that I could barely read on. So embarrassed me with its masterful, cringe-worthy, fancy-dress scene that nothing real-life could throw at me could ever equal that moment of fictional emotional horror. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then get a copy instantly. The point of this production, though, was that it pretty much purely spoke to aficionados of the book. If you hadn’t read it, you wouldn’t get it.)

Kneehigh Theatre’s production begins wonderfully sinisterly; Rebecca, the ghost who haunts this ‘study in jealousy’, floats down from above, claiming her watery grave at the heart of the stage from which she controls her posthumous story. The gracious portals of Manderley form the backdrop of the action – but inherent in their grandeur is decay: the floor is cracked; the woodwork peeled back to plaster and lath.

And then a roaring 20s’ party breaks out. There’s Lizzie Winkler as a glorious Beatrice; Andy Williams, her portly, faintly ridiculous but good-hearted husband; and Robert, the fervent servant – utterly hilariously played by Katy Owen (“She’s got hot flushes and a bit of a dryness in ‘er tuppence”). Superbly funny. Into this comic brilliance walks the gauchely naïve second Mrs de Winter (Imogen Sage) and her older, utterly tormented husband Max (Tristan Sturrock). But, to be honest, what strikes you, away from du Maurier’s first-person narration, is Max’s mundanity.

Yet! Hang on a minute! He cannot be mundane! That’s the whole point. The moral outrage at the beating centre of this story has to be assuaged somehow.

And Mrs dW? Well, in this production, she is, at times, Pollyanna; at other times, Sandy from Grease (amazingly, in the transformation scene, she drags on her first cigarette without even a hint of a wheeze). And, at other times still, she is, admittedly, perfect.

“Your hair… Try sweeping it behind your ears,” suggests worldly Beatrice. “…Oh no. That’s worse.”

While Mrs Danvers (Emily Raymond), the necessary evil at the heart of the drama, is simply too two-dimensional, Kneehigh. She might make puppies into coats in another life; but, here, she doesn’t cut that menacing, murderous threat that warps this story from love to hate.

And then there was the music. Beautiful, haunting music that tore at your heart and tossed your emotions like flotsam. Loved it. But the sea shanties? I get that they couldn’t stage the sea; or the Happy Valley; the Cornish landscape with its streams and carpets of azaleas. But.

That’s the first half. Then there’s the interval. And, at some point in the interval, having seen the length of the ice-cream queue, somebody from the cast reads the book and realises they’re way off beam. So, with barely 45 minutes left, they panic-cram the actual storyline into a rushed, confusing web of quickly-presented ideas that make up in bangs and flashes what they lack in emotion. That and Mrs de Winter doing strange forward rolls. What was all that about?

So, my bad. As I say, I was the wrong person to review this because it’s Rebecca. And I love Rebecca. The unfunny, unsettling, psychological brilliance of a novel where, if someone ever laughs, they regret it instantly.

And I know that pretty much everyone else in the entire world probably disagrees with me. Which is why I’m currently behind the bar, in a disused pub, a Winchester rifle clutched in my sweaty hands.

-------------------------------

Kneehigh Theatre’s production of Rebecca is running at the Everyman from April 20 - Saturday, April 25

The Everyman Theatre is at Regent Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1HQ, box office 01242 572573; www.everymantheatre.org.uk

1 comment

  • Katie, I totally agree with you. Why did they turn it into a comedy. When they were being serious it was amazing but what was the purpose of a comedy dog (Jasper) sniffing the new Mrs de winter's crotch??? Also, why is servant Robert talking on the phone about someone lubricating there " Tuppence"???? They took the trouble of additional scenes that were not in the book and left out scenes that were crucial. Du Maurier would be turning in her grave.

    Report this comment

    Yeans

    Friday, April 24, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

More from Out & about

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

What started as a business ploy by one Cotswold firm has developed into an inspirational garden

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

If a bit of English eccentricity is your thing, spend an enjoyable afternoon exploring the delightful follies of Faringdon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search