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Rebecca – Interview with Emma Rice

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Read more on Rebecca – Interview with Emma Rice from the Kneehigh Cookbook archive.

What made you choose Rebecca?

The bigger question is why haven’t I done it before!? Daphne du Maurier is the Cornish high priestess of storytelling, and Rebecca is a feminist work; all the characters explore different aspects of femininity.

Is your production inspired by the book or/and the film?

I’ve steered clear of the film. My inspirations are the book and the play written by Du Maurier in the 1930s. Then, of course, there is what my experience and my imagination bring to it! I have been much more faithful to the book than the film. I’ve made a big change in the third act. Both the book and the film end up with a group of blokes we don’t know anything about deciding the outcome of the play. So I made a decision to make it more immediate and much more theatrical.

What is the play’s relationship to Cornwall?

It’s set in Cornwall, that’s where she sat when she wrote it. I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s Cornwall that she’s talking about. Kneehigh is a Cornish company and Cornwall is at the heart of who we are. We choose to make work here and to live on the outside. We look out to the sea rather than inland. I hope this production brings out the mythical nature of the place.

Tell us about the devising and rehearsal process.

This will be less of a devising process than other shows I’ve directed as it’s scripted and is a classic text. It’s a psychological drama so we will be working in depth on the characters and making sure they are as believable and strange as real life. This is all about truth and lies so we need a lot of oxygen in the rehearsal room to ensure we can play and explore together with total freedom. It must have tension and truth and humanity. However, I always make sure that the room is full of people who care more about the piece as a whole than they do their individual character. We are storytellers first and foremost.

What are the themes of the play?

Daphne du Maurier said it was a study in jealousy, and jealousy runs through the heart of the piece in all its aspects. It’s also about morality, natural law and the enormous issue of class (it can never be forgotten that Maxim is from the upper class). But for me, it is a feminist piece. It is about women being capable of all things: rage, fear, manipulation, love, loyalty, sexual freedom and anger. My aim is not to get sucked into any form of romanticism. It’s worth pointing out that Daphne du Maurier hated it when anyone called it a romance. This is a psychological thriller and a horror.

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