MY COUSIN RACHEL
Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court
Daphne du Maurier's romantic melodrama was already a period piece when it came out in the 1950s.
CTW's Christine Davidson achieved a good sense of that stifled, strait-laced Victorian sensuality in her painstaking production of Diana Morgan's stage adaptation.
An aroma of mulled wine filled the festive foyer, where the decorations included a teapot for the all-important bitter tisane. We heard evocative incidental music specially composed by Andrea Blackwood-Barnes.
Certain of the cast caught the style more successfully than others. I found the "casual generation" – Sophia Charalambous [Louise] and Harry Sabbarton [Phillip] – a little too contemporary, though both had impressive stage presence, and Phillip's drowning in love and descent into madness were movingly done.
Kevin Stemp was a very convincing Italian in a crucial supporting role, Richard Baylis made the most of the old retainer Seecombe, with Nick Gulvin as the level-headed lawyer.
Catherine Bailey made Rachel, Phillip's "torment", a striking, smouldering femme fatale, immediately at ease as the new chatelaine of Barton, reciting a litany of names, toying with the "infatuated, besotted" boy. Their scenes together were some of the strongest; the confrontation of Louise and Rachel, and Louise's early dialogue with Phillip were also grippingly dramatic.
The set, solid and enclosed, with a bevy of servants to deck the hall, was a stylish, telling presence in this intense psychological drama.