Rebecca the Musical at Charing Cross Theatre
Rebecca the Musical at Charing Cross Theatre is a masterful adaptation, telling the story of Maxim de Winter (Richard Carson) and his new wife (Lauren Jones), and how their love affair is haunted by the death of Rebecca, the late Mrs De Winter. It’s a clever take on the material, using the compact space of the theatre to fully immerse the audience into the tale. There are digital backdrops, breaking of the fourth wall, and even some audience interactions, with the cast coming in from and going into the crowd during specific musical numbers. The lighting doesn’t just wash over the stage to create atmosphere, but all around, further adding to the effect.
There are a lot of subtleties in the production to elevate the storytelling. For example, curtains, shadows, silhouettes and smoke are used to enhance the ghostly omnipresence of Rebecca. The themes of secrets hidden beneath, of whispered words and gossip, are strong motifs throughout the show. Another little detail is how Jones’ mic at the beginning is of a lower volume than everyone else’s. This is reflective of her character’s initial meek and demure behaviour, her words barely heard above the strong voices of everyone else around her. As she gains confidence, her mic increases in volume until she finally overpowers Mrs Danvers (Kara Lane) in Mrs De Winter is Here.
This growth is also exhibited brilliantly through costume, with Jones at first dressed in earthy tones of brown, creams and light beiges. As she takes her stand against Mrs Danvers, she substitutes her colour palette for darker blues and blacks, and wears lifts instead of flats. Costume in general plays a strong role in creating tone and signifying the mood of the characters. For example, when Maxim and she first meet in Monte Carlo, he’s dressed in a light white and blue suit. After marriage, they return to Manderley, where his clothes are heavy leather browns and deep greys. Mrs Danvers is also clad in black, as if the whole mansion is stuck in a state of mourning.
The true highlight of Rebecca the Musical is Lane as Mrs Danvers. Her performance is magical – her voice strong and alluring, longing for the impossible return of Rebecca. She embodies fully the manic anger of a woman scorned by the loss of her friend, fueled by rage and betrayal, yet the softness of someone who has lost her place in the current world. Her arduous dynamic with the new Mrs De Winter is haunted by the queer undercurrents of her affection for Rebecca. Lane plays this role so convincingly that audiences will feel both charmed and repulsed by her actions.
Rebecca the Musical is a breath of fresh air in the West End. Its gothic undertaking delivers a different kind of fantasy than the one usually seen in the musical theatre space – grittier, darker and more grounded, while still poetic. It presents a novel perspective on tragedy: rather than feeling pain or heartbreak for any of the characters, there’s a sincere self-inquisition of who the true villain is in the end.
Images: Mark Senior
Rebecca the Musical is at Charing Cross Theatre from 4th September until 18th November 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.