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Daphne du Maurier's mystery romance My Cousin Rachel plays out in a shadowy production with Helen George presenting a fascinating femme fatale


By Margaret Chrystall


REVIEW

My Cousin Rachel

Eden Court

****

MISTRESS of the romance mystery, Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel keeps you guessing if the exotic Italian is a grief-stricken sweetheart or a murderous black widow.

Theatre Royal Bath’s production masterfully keeps the suspense high in a shadowy, gothic production with candlelight and gloomy interiors and a dramatic moving set that literally keeps your world shifting.

And like shot silk, the fabric of the play constantly alters your view as the light falls differently on the surface of Rachel and Philip’s story.

The play begins in Cornwall on a family estate with young ward Philip mourning his guardian Ambrose who has died in Italy.

Helen George as Rachel. Picture: Manuel Harlan
Helen George as Rachel. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Reminiscing, Philip opens the play remembering walking with Ambrose and seeing at the crossroads the corpse of a murderer who had murdered the woman he loved.

“… we happened on a body hanging like a weather vane on a rusty pivot”.

And somehow that body swings over us throughout the play, an omen and a warning at the same time.

Grief-stricken Philip eventually invites his cousin to Cornwall – Ambrose has left his whole estate to Philip – and as Philip reluctantly gets to know Rachel, he is quickly charmed then infatuated by her and the whole very male estate of servants seems willingly to fall under her spell.

“A pair of eyes will come and burn you down,” Rachel teases the unwary Philip, about how love will ambush him. But it’s Rachel herself who steals his heart.

Philip plans to give her Ambrose’s estate – and have her for himself. But his earliest suspicions that Rachel may have had something to do with Ambrose’s last illness, resurface as he gets ill.

Fascinating and dangerous, loving and sweet, Helen George’s performance – and this precision-cast team – skilfully keeps us balanced, walking the tightrope all night between trust and suspicion.

My Cousin Rachel continues at Eden Court, Inverness, until Saturday.



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