(PLEASE NOTE: This review contains spoilers!!)

I left the brand-new English production of Rebecca with mixed feelings. The highs are exceptionally high: Lauren Jones as the new Mrs de Winter is outstanding. Her voice is a joy to listen to and I found myself excited every time she came on stage. Jones performed the transition from the naive and innocent young woman, we meet at first, to the confident and self-assured lady of the house with real grace; her subtlety is something to be applauded.

Credit: Mark Senior

Subtlety is something the production could do with a lot more of. The ensemble has a total of five songs and given the long run time of the play, this feels excessive. Their numbers are melodramatic almost to the extent of pantomime in moments, which rips the audience from the seriousness the rest of the production is attempting to portray.

There have been many adaptations of Rebecca over the years and it is always a tough feat to live up to the beloved writing of Daphne du Maurier. Because of this, I found it odd that Christopher Hampton chose to change the cause of Rebecca’s death. In the original, Maxim is pushed and taunted by Rebecca so far that he snaps and shoots her, as Rebecca wanted. In the stage adaptation, however, it is an accident that Maxim kills Rebecca, which somehow feels as though she is stripped of what little agency she has left.

Part of the premise of the book is the dramatic reveal that Rebecca is not the object of Maxim’s desire but the object of his ire. The plot twist in the reveal of Rebecca’s true nature is perhaps one of the reasons why the book is so successful. Hampton’s adaptation, however, does away with this and tells the audience from the outset that Rebecca is an unfeeling and cruel woman. The point of this is unclear except maybe to allow Kara Lane as Mrs. Danvers more musical numbers earlier in the play.

Credit: Mark Senior

Lane does well as Danvers, and her performance of the play’s main theme song is to her credit. However, I did find myself wishing for her portrayal to be slightly more sinister throughout, as it is at the end of the play.

The set design, by Nicky Shaw, is well thought out and well executed. In the relatively small Charing Cross theatre, we are treated to the grandeur and scale of Manderley and its grounds. The large orchestra, conducted by Robert Scott, remain consistently excellent throughout the play and creates a wonderful atmosphere.

This adaptation, while not without merit, fails to live up to the high expectations set by the prestige of a story like Rebecca.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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