REVIEW: Rebecca, Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Imogen Sage as Mrs De Winter at the Manderley ball.
Imogen Sage as Mrs De Winter at the Manderley ball.

Who would have thought an audience’s opinion of a dead character could change so much over the course of an evening?

Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca has as many twists and turns as a slinky toy, and it’s every bit as fun too.

Director Emma Rice’s adaptation doesn’t quite pin down a specific genre, briskly moving from a gothic serious tone to comedy genius and back at every opportunity.

The play follows the story of newlyweds Maxim De Winter (Tristan Sturrock) and Mrs De Winter (Imogen Sage) as they move back to the fictional estate of Manderley, having met in Monte Carlo.

It is clear, however, that there is a rather large white elephant in the room – Maxim’s first wife Rebecca, who tragically drowned in the bay near their home.

She is painted as the perfect wife by all who loved her, but all isn’t as made out to be.

Family secrets come to the fore, many of which are quite shocking, making you really question who is in the right and who is in the wrong.

What really happened to Rebecca?

The staging perfectly showcases the upper class estate, with the boat Rebecca set sail on taking a significant place in the centre of the stage.

Imogen Sage plays the transformation from a meek 21-year-old to a dominating female presence remarkably well, highlighting Du Maurier’s study in jealousy near perfectly.

Katy Owen provides great entertainment as youngster Robert with her infectious Welsh tones, with Ewan Wardrop bringing many a smile as cheeky chappy Jack Favell.

Director Rice defies female stereotypes with a real pizzazz, theatrically and passionately challenging the female victim image.

But who, if anybody, takes the flak for Rebecca’s actions?

Rebecca is at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, until November 14.