8 February 2020

My Cousin Rachel at Richmond Theatre

Daphne du Maurier did not feature in my young reading years but has featured frequently in my old radio drama listening years and good listening it has been too. So when My Cousin Rachel was announced at Richmond Theatre, way back in August, I was quick in to get my usual seat, Dress Circle A25 and was very happy to pay an opening night discount of £22 with my ATG Theatre Card.

I rarely book that far ahead and it was nice getting this sorted.

All went well until I got to the theatre on the Monday evening. The show had been cancelled just as I arrived due to technical details with the stage. It was a busy week, including two other theatre dates, and so I was resigned to missing it. A few days later it transpired that I could make a Saturday evening performance and so I called ATG to see if I could rebook or have to settle for my money back. I was very lucky as I could get seats in my preferred area (A23) and at the original discounted price. Result!

The set was suitable dark and Gothic as I settled down to enjoy the show.

The basic story was about the mysterious Cousin Rachel, a former Italian Contessa, coming to Cornwall to visit the ward of her recently deceased husband. Throughout the play there were questions about her motives and her past.

These questions added more and more to the drama and kept the excitement high.

Other themes added colour to the story; these included Cornish language and legends, society's conventions on class and the sexes, and the power of the sea. Lines like "I am a woman so I shall always be a servant" peppered the play providing many moments of thoughtfulness and humour. It was a rich and rewarding experience.

Any story dominated by one character needs that actor to be believable and Helen George was every inch the femme fatale. She was gorgeous, mysterious, playful, wicked, scheming, kind and everything else that Cousin Rachel had to be. The rest of the show was well cast too and all of the characters were utterly believable.

I liked the staging too. Essentially it was the main room in the manor house with a large staircase curving out of it and when the stage rotated that staircase became the cliffs above the sea and all that we needed for the transformation was a change in lighting and some sound effects. Simple but effective.

My Cousin Rachel was exciting, entertaining, engaging and everything else that a good story well told should be.

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