"Charismatic, mysterious, alluring or murderess?"
by Jill Lawrie for remotegoat on 29/01/20

Accomplished and well-loved story teller Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic thriller “My Cousin Rachel” has been successfully adapted for the stage by Joseph O’Connor and now plays at Chichester Festival Theatre before completing the UK tour in Richmond next month. Known for her dark psychological tensions midst wild rugged Cornish settings, this play is no exception. Set in the 19th century near Bodmin, this complex story is full of buried passions, secrets, jealousy and suspicions ending with a devastating climax.

Ambrose Ashley has died in Florence, leaving his entire estate to his young ward Philip on reaching 25. His widow, Rachel Coryn Ashley, travels to the Cornish estate wreaking havoc on the all-male household. She is viewed suspiciously by all, as this twice widowed enchantress constantly brews her tisanes which are questionably curative or poisonous? The impulsive heir’s initial distrust of the Contessa soon turns to feverish passion as she emotionally manipulates and seduces all in her path.

Richard Kent’s spectacular revolving set is dominated by a central staircase and imposing fireplace, with a backdrop of a dramatic Cornish seascape that lends itself admirably to creating moody and eerie effects.
Heading the cast is Helen George, most notably known for her 9 years playing Trixie Franklin in tv drama “Call the Midwife, who is making her Chichester debut. She plays Rachel the exotic unconventional female but struggles somewhat to maintain an Italian accent. Simon Shepherd (of “Peak Practice” fame) commendably takes on the role of family friend and executor Nicholas Kendall. Despite giving sound advice his warnings go unheeded by the young beneficiary. Jack Holden credibly handles his character Philip Ashley from grief-stricken young man, to naive lover and foolhardy master. Good support too comes from Christopher Hollis (Guido Rainaldi) as Rachel’s dubious Italian lawyer!
After a slow start, that has a certain lack of theatrical tension, the suspense builds as misgivings are aroused leading to an unexpected and dramatic finale.

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