Tag Archives: Daphne du Maurier




Charing Cross Theatre

REBECCA at Charing Cross Theatre



“its sights are undoubtedly set on a bigger space”

“Rebecca” the musical has taken quite a while to come to our shores. Based on Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic novel of the same name, it was written by Michael Kunze (book and lyrics) and Sylvester Levay (music). When it opened more than a decade and a half ago in Vienna it played to sold out houses for over three years before crossing the oceans to Japan and back again to Finland, Hungary, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Serbia, Romania, Czechia and Russia. In the meantime, The English audience’s appetite was whetted by Emma Rice’s chillingly magical touring production which, in true Kneehigh fashion, was part musical, part fairy-tale, part horror fantasy.

High expectations lie in wait at the gates of Manderley for the musical, translated by Kunze and Christopher Hampton. Alejandro Bonatto’s production is quite fearless in the face of anticipation, so much so that the ambition and vision of the piece feels initially at odds with the choice of venue. With an eighteen-piece orchestra, twenty-two songs and an all singing all dancing ensemble, its sights are undoubtedly set on a bigger space. But for now, it has settled in for the autumn and it feels like this very English tale has come home.

Staying faithful to the novel it centres around “I” – the first-person narrator, known only as the second Mrs. de Winter. Having met the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo she all too rapidly becomes his wife and moves to his grand estate in Cornwall. Washed up in a ghost story without the ghosts, the new bride grapples with the oppressive presence of de Winter’s first wife – Rebecca – who died in mysterious circumstances the year before. Exacerbated by Mrs Danvers – the cold, overbearing housekeeper – she grows increasingly obsessed with the beautiful first wife. The suspense builds, secrets are revealed, and intrigues unravelled.

“The melodies are quite beautiful when needed; and stirring whenever required”

Like the novel, the musical opens with “I” famously saying (though in this case singing – and paraphrasing presumably for scanning purposes) ‘last night I dreamt of Manderley’. We immediately get a taste of the sumptuous score, and the quality of the singing voices on display. The atmosphere is created, but then somewhat dismantled as events and the central romance progress at breakneck speed. Songs come and go, often ending too soon. Crescendos and climaxes bounce off the walls leaving little space for true characterisation. While Richard Carson’s Maxim de Winter is quite rooted in his awkward and arrogant secrecy, Lauren Jones’ “I” has the more pronounced arc; even though we have to wait until after interval to witness Jones’ transformation from timid outsider to gutsy go-getter who can rightfully grab what is hers. When she looks like stealing the show, it is snatched away by Kara Lane as Mrs Danvers, with a soul of steel and voice of velvet. The duo makes compelling watching, particularly during act two’s opening number ‘Rebecca’. The gauntlet is thrown, and the stage is set. The second half of the show is indeed several notches up from the first act, and the mists of darkness and deviousness break away from the artificiality of dry ice, to form something more tangible and emotive.

The bleak Cornish setting is evoked through David Seldes’ lighting and Matt Powell’s projections, with the old school theatricality of Nicky Shaw’s sets, deftly manoeuvred and transformed by the ensemble cast. An ensemble that is equally as important as the leading players, and given several rousing numbers that set the scene and drive the plot. It is more melodrama than psychological insight, but then again – is that a bad thing? We’re not looking for Daphne du Maurier’s literary subtleties. We want the essence, which is what is achieved. The melodies are quite beautiful when needed; and stirring whenever required. Sometimes, however, it is superfluous to requirements, and therefore stretches the show beyond its natural length. A show that, in turn, is pushing at the walls of the space. The true vision is confined for now, but it is still quite thrilling. The heart may be relatively unmoved, but the senses are indeed stirred.


REBECCA at Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed on 18th September 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


George Takei’s Allegiance | ★★★★ | January 2023
From Here To Eternity | ★★★★ | November 2022
The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore | ★★★ | October 2022
Ride | ★★★★★ | August 2022
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike | ★★★ | November 2021
Pippin | ★★★★ | July 2021



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Review of Jamaica Inn – 5 Stars


Jamaica Inn

Tabard Theatre

Reviewed – 10th November 2017


“A faithful adaptation of the book executed with a boldness and flair all its own”


I was intrigued to see how a story carved from the expanse of the desolate Bodmin Moor and battered by wild wind and rain could be told in the intimate setting of the Tabard Theatre. The dim, misty lighting and Maira Vazeou’s set design – simple, yet containing the essential elements of the surrounding marshland and stark life – beautifully foreshadow this gothic tale by Daphne du Maurier. Set in the 1820s, it follows young Mary Yellan, recently orphaned, as she arrives at Jamaica Inn to stay with her aunt and uncle. Her headstrong nature embroils her in its sinister secrets and deceptions which she neither wants to discover, nor can resist.

Lisa Evans’ adaptation is impressively close to the novel, keeping much of the original dialogue and drama to maintain the suspense and balance. The small space is used to create a sense of claustrophobia and isolation, leaving the outside to rely more heavily on the imagination. The cast is excellent with an especially spell-binding performance from Helen Bang as Aunt Patience, while Anastasia Revi’s direction grips the attention from beginning to end through the ingenious use of props, movement, sound and character detail.

Kimberley Jarvis as Mary captivates the stage, often in tightly choreographed scenes which recreate the action and texture of the book and there is an effective interplay with her thoughts skilfully woven into the soundscape. The bullying figure of Uncle Joss, played by Toby Wynn-Davies, swings frighteningly from aggression to ominous charm, and Peter Rae portrays an intriguing Frances Davey, the local vicar.

On a technical level, the performance uses imaginative lighting (Ben Jacobs) and slick, original stage management. The sound design is a tour de force and the music, composed by Jonathan Bratoëff, enriches the work with both instrumental passages and songs, though occasionally this detracts from the harshness of the content. It is quite an achievement that only once does the space hinder the dramatic impact of the play, at the story’s denouement following a powerful build-up of tension. In addition, the short interaction between Mary and Mrs Bassat could have been a more engaging contrast to the surrounding urgency had Phoebe Hyder’s role been better defined.

Truly enjoyable and befitting the long, dark winter evenings, this production of Jamaica Inn blends fine acting with artistic allure and technical mastery. A faithful adaptation of the book executed with a boldness and flair all its own.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Panayis Chrysovergis




is at the Tabard Theatre until 2nd December



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