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It’s the start of the autumn theatre season and at last we’re able to go out again on a Saturday night and see a grown-up thought-provoking play in a nice clean cosy theatre five minutes from home.
And where is this possible, you may ask. Why, the main house of the Lichfield Garrick of course, and the play in question is our own Lichfield Players’ version of Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca.
The story’s familiar of course from the famous Olivier film, but as a stage play it was quite new to me and this intelligent production gave plenty of pause for thought. Because although Rebecca is dead, her name is constantly on everyone’s lips and her dangerously charismatic character is still affecting people’s lives, for good or ill.
This production was blessed by the confident Hannah Freeman as the bewildered child-bride surprisingly chosen by the sophisticate Maxim de Winter (Bill Killick coping manfully in an exhaustingly vital role) as Rebecca’s replacement.
Karen Fisher was superbly sinister and terrifyingly truculent as the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, or “Danny” as Rebecca dubbed her with dashing lesbian chic.
But the real revelation was David Titley who in the last act turned in a faultless performance as the dipso bounder who had quite literally been Rebecca’s last squeeze. This man can act, and should, more often. Stephen Brunton gave his now traditional performance as a son of toil very profitably, while Phil Shaw gave moral ajudicator Colonel Julyan an effortless patrician gloss.
This production neatly revealed what an intriguingly sly writer Du Maurier was. Like Godot, Rebecca never appears, but is always present. She is all the more glamorous for that, since we see her through the eyes of adorers who loved her quicksilver soul although she held an unhealthy, destructive sway over them all, including her husband Maxim who finally murdered her.
As an audience we imagine the sexually potent Rebecca for ourselves in preference to the anaemic milksop who has replaced her. But the slyest trick of all is slipped in at the very end, for the second Mrs. De Winter, despite knowing that her husband is a murderer, decides to keep his secret. By the standards of Du Maurier’s day this was immoral, illegal, and certainly naïeve. So Rebecca has triumphed again, corrupting innocence even from beyond the grave. And who’s to say the urbane Maxim won’t do it again either, when he realises how much he still misses Rebecca, far more than he loves the gullible, biddable, boring, second Mrs. De Winter?
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