A stage adaptation of a much-loved novel is heading to the region. Katy Wheeler finds out what audiences can expect from Rebecca
Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again” – it’s one of the most famous opening lines in literature.
And now theatre-goers can enter the estate of Manderley with a fresh adaptation of Rebecca.
New life has been breathed into Daphne du Maurier’s passionate tale of secrets and obsession.
Conjuring Cornish romance and theatrical magic, Kneehigh’s production of Rebecca is a take on the best-selling novel, which has never been out of print since it first hit bookshelves in 1938.
Stepping into the sensible shoes of sinister head housekeeper Mrs Danvers is Emily Raymond.
“I’m really enjoying it, it’s such a special book and a lovely adaptation to be involved in,” she said.
“I’m not one of those people who would say it’s their favourite book, I’d read it at school a couple of times. Then, when I got the part I dipped back into it, then I read the Daphne du Maurier play, then the film and a few of the TV things.
“I’m not normally one for watching things before roles, but it’s so iconic I felt I needed to know what was out there, then forget it and bring my own thing to the character.
“There is a certain pressure, especially when you first take on the role, but then you just do what you think is right.”
For those unfamiliar with the book, the scene is set in the aftermath of the mysterious death of Maxim de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca. He returns to his estate, Manderley, with his new young bride who, surrounded by memories of the glamorous Rebecca, is consumed by jealousy.
She sets out to uncover the secrets of the house and a past fiercely guarded by Mrs Danvers.
Emily says the play is true to the book.
“I think it’s true to the spirit of the book, but there are certain bits that have been more than tinkered with to give it that theatrical element. But the atmosphere of the book is very present,” she explained.
“I think it’s updated, not in when it’s set, but in its take on Mrs du Winter. It’s a modern take which is very vibrant and irreverent. It doesn’t hold the book up like a museum piece.”
Speaking about her character, she said: “Mrs Danvers is how she is because she’s in a state of deep grief, she has a lot of anger.
“It’s great fun to play her, but it’s not a character I want to spend too long as, two hours a night is enough.”
The eponymous female, of course, never makes an appearance.
“Rebecca is very much a haunting presence in the play, as is the sea,” says Emily.
“Actually I think of Rebecca as elemental, she has a strong, earthy presence. And, of course, through my character’s eyes she’s amazing. Rebecca is before her time in a way. She’s a strong, powerful woman, She’s not pleasant, but she knew what she wanted. She was tampered with herself.”
Emily is joined on stage by Tristan Sturrock as Maxim de Winter and Imogen Sage as Mrs de Winter. She added: “I know people who have come to see the play who absolutely love the book and I worry thinking ‘oh gosh, will they like it’, but they absolutely love it. As well as people who haven’t read the book. It works on both levels.”
•Rebecca appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal from May 11-16. Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 112121 or select your own seat and book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.
We’ve teamed up with Theatre Royal Newcastle to give away a pair of tickets to Rebecca on May 11.
To be in with a chance of winning answer this question: What is the name of the estate where Rebecca is set?
Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk. Closing date: May 7