Norwich Theatre Royal


Theatre Royal

Coughs abounded in this slick but ultimately unsatisfying production of Du Maurier's classic.

Apparently the new adaptation by Frank McGuiness, who counts both Broadway and the West End amongst his conquests, contained up to 75% of Du Maurier's original lines. Which makes it surprising that so little of the book's menace or atmosphere found its way over the footlights.

When I took my seat, however, I little knew what was in store and as the smoke curled around the edges of the blue velvet curtains, thoughts of Hitchcock's 1940s film were foremost in my mind: did Nigel Havers have the substance to pull off a performance of complex and haunted murderer Maxim de Winter to rival Laurence Olivier? Would the subtle twists in the plot be timed to keep my heart beating as they were in the book? As the curtain slid slowly back, the stage was a breathtaking projection of the sea working endlessly in the background whilst the actors stood, captured 'in a fragment of time'.

But just as I was preparing to suspend my disbelief, the microphones started to echo and the spell broke.

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Havers seemed well cast as de Winter, however. A slippery quality to his performance never allowed me to second guess his thoughts. And the storytelling was very pacy - perhaps, in fact, a little too fast to allow an atmosphere or sense of chill to really develop. It's interesting that Du Maurier herself did not create a very satisfactory stage adaptation of her own book. Perhaps her nightmare vision suits film best, where the illusion can be faultless and, just like memory, you can play it back forever.

270 words. (me counting, no word count on this computer.)

Eve Stebbing


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