Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca heads to Southampton’s Mayflower

As Imogen Sage says, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is the tale that’s got everything.


“It’s a mystery and a thriller. It’s supernatural and it is romantic. And it has got dark psychology.

“But what I really think is that it is about a woman, especially in our version, overcoming her fear and stepping into power. It is profound… but it is also quite funny!”

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The production, which comes from Kneehigh Theatre, plays the Mayflower, Southampton from November 30-Saturday, December 5, with Imogen as the second Mrs de Winter

Following the mysterious death of his first wife, Maxim de Winter returns to Manderley with his new young bride. Surrounded by memories of the glamorous Rebecca, the new Mrs de Winter is consumed by jealousy.

She sets out to uncover the secrets of the house and a past fiercely guarded by the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers. All is not what it seems in Manderley...

The book dates from 1938: “And in terms of our production, we are very much thinking of ourselves as people from that time. But in other respects our production is quite modern. When Mrs de Winters learns the terrible news of Mr de Winter’s past, in the original she is forced to grow up quite quickly and deal with the situation. In our version, we really elaborate that growing up and explore her growing into power and becoming a woman in quite a dark way.

“At the start, she is an orphan. She doesn’t have any money at all. She is very alone in the world and very fragile and eager to please. And then she finds a man who wants to take her to his home and love her. She really wants to fit into that home because she has never had a home, but Mrs Danvers is there… She is really made to feel there is the ghost of Rebecca in every room.

“Max, her husband, is quite distant because of what has happened. He is upper-class and very British and quite reserved. But he is still charming, and she sees something in him. When they were in Monte Carlo together and when they were on honeymoon in Italy, they do really quite enjoy themselves together and he does find a new way of living. But when he goes back home, he is surrounded by all the memories… She feels she has lost him.”

Imogen was happy to look at screen versions of the tale in preparation, including the celebrated Hitchcock film and the more recent BBC version: “I felt I could do that because we were producing something that was quite different.”

Also she knew they were bringing to it all the great Kneehigh Theatre advantage.

Based in Cornwall, just a stone throw’s from Daphne du Maurier’s home, the company has grown from humble beginnings to carve out a global reputation for its shows. They have created productions with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, with international hits including Trsitan & Yseult and Brief Encounter.

“Kneehigh is a Cornwall-based company which is already a box-ticker. It is Kneehigh, it is Daphne du Maurier and it is set in Cornwall, and I think the company is a company that really celebrates Cornwall.”

The multi-award winning creative team is led by Emma Rice, Kneehigh Theatre’s joint artistic director.

“There are Cornish folk songs in the production, and there is Cornish folklore,” Imogen says.

Tickets on 0844 871 7650.

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