Thursday, December 22, 2011


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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On reflection I feel that none of the main characters really got into character. It was only the Italian and the Head Gardener who made any effort to be other than themselves.

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