REVIEW: Rebecca at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Rebecca at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Rebecca at Cambridge Arts Theatre - Credit: Archant

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca presented by Kneehigh Theatre at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday (March 28).

This play is surprisingly delightful. It is based on Daphne du Maurier’s gripping novel, written in the 1930s. Du Maurier called it a study in jealousy.

The heroine, who narrates the story and whose name we never know, describes her life as a young bride, overshadowed and surrounded by memories of her husband’s dead first wife, Rebecca.

She has known her husband, who is rather older than her, only a brief time before they marry after meeting on holiday in Monte Carlo. The suave Maxim de Winter (Tristan Sturrock) brings her home to his mansion, Mandeley.

The house is not just full of the late Rebecca’s things, it is run by Rebecca’s housekeeper, the grim and spiteful Mrs Danvers, (Emily Raymond) always mournful, always dressed in black, always reminding the young newcomer that she is not Rebecca and never will be.

So it shouldn’t be a bundle of laughs then. There wasn’t a lot of humour in Hitchcock’s 1940 movie. But this production, adapted and directed by Emma Rice, is vibrant with music and dance and lightness.

It is laced together with Cornish sea-shanties sung and played by virtuoso musicians. The sea becomes another character in the story, sending shivers down your spine. Yet the comic characters, played by Lizzie Winkler, Andy Williams and Katy Owen are warm and charming.

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Imogen Sage is definitive as the faltering new bride who stands up for herself in the end when she finds her marriage is hitting the rocks in more than one sense.

Her performance as a young woman who is demure but ultimately strong is beautifully natural. All the performances are understated and fine in this ensemble production which flows like the sea.

It is cheerful and chilling and utterly engaging throughout.