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The Play Produced

from Monte Carlo with a new amidst the evil and although the young wife. He has to be full of audience may know what she is lip charm, attractive and must make to Ihe de Winters must not. Alan Jones discllsses his produc­ the audience warm to him despite Beatrice and Giles Lacey - very tionfor Harlow Theatre Cumpany his offhand treatment of his new county sister and brother-in-law to Harlow Theatre Company has wife and his moody behaviour Maxim , providing a lot of humour approximately 100 members and whenever his first wife. Rebecca is in the play, particularly Beatrice, presents some 8 to l:) productions mentioned. who is outspoken in the extreme each year in the intimate Studio Mrs. de Winter demands an actress and must be played at full tilt in Theatre at the Harlow Playhouse . Occasionally. at present once a year, we venture forth on to the main stage of the Playhouse. Those of you who read this maga­ zine regularly will know that the General Manager of the Harlow Playhouse , Mr. Gordon Hewlett, has consistently promoted a close relationship between professional and amateur theatre. The criteria for choosi.ng a play for the main stage differ somewhat from those which apply to a Studio presentation, where some experi­ mentation is allowcd. For the main stage we needed a good play which would give opportunities for the membership to work in demanding and exciting roles in a production which had to have pop­ ular appeal. Thus we alighted on "REBECCA" - the stage adaptation by Daphne du Maurier herself of her great romantic mystery thriller. Known to almost everybody because of either the book itself or the classic Hitchcock film. The play must have been presented innumerable times up and down the country, but stiLI has the pulling power of a stage classic, and although the audience may know the story very well they still fall under its spell and for those that don't, what sur­ prises await as the story unfolds. CASTING This was di fficult despite the fact order to counter-balance the drama that I had a large choice, particu­ of great sensitivity who during the larly for the roles of Mrs. de course of the play transforms from that is unfolding. Jack Favell, Winter and Mrs. Danvers . Rebecca's cousin, seducer, black­ a rather shy colourless creature to Obviously strong actors were the lady of the house, literally mailer, general no-good should required for all the roles as none changing places with Maxim, leave a trail of slime all over the could be described as easy. The stage. Colonel Julyan, the County showing great courage. determina­ writing tends on the melodramatic tion and gaining tremendous Chief Constable, likable fellow , great friend of Maxim's and not side and the playing demands respect. great depth of feeling to make Mrs Danvers - a difficult role, she wishing any ill to befall him. these aspects of the piece accept­ is the archetypal villainess who Frank Crawley, Estate Manager ­ able to modem audiences. needs very careful playing so as dull, boring and shy. Dirticult for The principal roles are: not to make it impossible to any actor to have all these Maxim de Winter - owner of believe that she would have attributes and yet remain interest­ ing. Not easy to bring o~f but well Manderley who hides a deep retained her job. Moments of guilty secret as he returns home charm have to be found from her worth the effort. Tabb - the boatREBECCA

hy Daphne dll MaurieI'

PAGE 14

builder - everything he say~ j thought out and an astute bu,m.: man I would say. Frith - the butk old reta,i ner. kind and res pectft. and his young assistant, the chet:k. Robert. The cast is completed b. maids and party guests. Mix all these together, .· ;tir \\ t:1I and the tale unfolds. What is the mystery surrounding the fate of the first Mrs. de Winter? Why is M . Danvers so evil to the new lady of the house ? Why is Maxim . afraid of Rebecca? If you do nOi know the story, read it and all will be revealed. REHEARSALS Rehearsals were for a period of 7 weeks plus the week of the show. We rehearsed two evenings plus all day Sunday 10 - 6 pm. After initially blocking the play, I broke it down into sections so that group scenes cou Id be rehearsed sepa­ rately from the big set duologues. This worked very well and it was good after a few weeks to run the play in sequence and see how the various elements fitted together. The commitment from the cast had to be total. The play. like most. required enormous concentration in order to build the tensiol'] that holds the audience to the end. It is a very long play running over 2 hours IS minutes without inter­ vals. The cast worked well, with great dedication, throughout this period. Rehearsals concentrated on the emotiona,l content of the play. building the relationship between characters to make them as natural as possible, whilst keeping a keen eye on the pictorial aspect. The play is set in the early thirties and attention to period was paramount. Much discussion was held between myself, the s et designer. costume designer and lighting designer well before cast­ ing took place. The set portrays the hall of a large country house, with a sweeping staircase, with large windows opening onto a terrace and Il arge double doors. The fumi­ ture had to be grand, not new, in good taste and obviously expen­ sive. We in HTC are very fortu­ nate in that our relationship wil h the Playhouse is such that the_ finance the production and . course, take the box offi receipts, while we get on with the Amateur Stage June J


The Play Produced

show. Thus it was that the set, designed by Bettina Hewlett, was constructed in the Playhouse Workshop by the Workshop pro­ fessional staff headed by Master Carpenter/Technical Manager Nodge Nolan who has been responsible for the building of sets for professional companies in this Workshop. The main constraint on the design of this set was that of cost and we had to try to use as much of the available stock as pos­ sible. This was achieved by close cooperation between the desig ner and Nodge. The results were spec­ tacular - including a fal se painted floor representing a grand tiled hall. Most of the furniture was provided by a local antique shop and one member of the production team whose house we practically emp­ tied. I decided to do away with the grand piano on the set as John Childs who played Maxim does not play piano and I didn ' t feel this was an integral part of the play. Music. however, can enhance a production by setting the mood and , although in the script, there was only a call for music to be played offstage whilst the ball was in progress, I did choose very care­ fully music for playing before the play began , in the scene changes, intervals and even twice for a few seconds during the playing. J thought the cello was appropriate, having as it seems to me a haunt­ ing and lonely qualiry. I chose rel­ atively unknown pieces and after much research I came up with the Delius Cello Concel10 and Holst 's Invocation. For the offstage music I chose Serenata played by a brass band. The sound cues indicated in the script such as thunder and cars arriving I cut. The furniture was set well down stage to make sure that the audi­ ence would see all the action at the top of the staircase and along the gallery, thus no house tabs were used and all scene changes were made by the maids and Robert in fuJI view of the audience. These were set at the Technical Rehearsal to look as natural aspos­ sible. WARDROBE The Wardrobe was in the hands.of HTC's little gem, Brenda MiUer, who is an absolute stickler for detail and seems to know as much as anyone needs to know about period costume. She is one of Amateur Stage .Iulle 1991

HT "s great assets. Great care was taken in choosing those items that were hired , some costumes were made, once again within the con­ straints of the budget set by the Playhouse. The special dress, an early 19th century ball gown, came from The National Theatre and did cause a remarkable stir amongst the audience - who had been antic­ ipating the effect, especially those who knew the story well. All accessories were carefully co-ordi­ nated and the great deal of time and effort expended equated to a ver y well dressed production . Fancy dress for the party guests came from the Playhouse wardrobe. LIGHTING design was in the hands of Vic Crowley. Although very efficient and imaginative in lighting our Studio productions , this was his first venture on the main stage. He received tremen­ dous support from the Playhouse staff and produced some subtle effects and attractive overall light­ ing. PROPS About six weeks before the show a script was sent to the Property Mistress - her comments:­ After receiving the script I read it underlining all the property items and checked the play period. I then made a list of these items as to whether they were set at the begin­ lIing of the Act or brought on by a

character. This list wa s then matched against the properties list at the end of the script and a definitive list was made up. Items which 1 knew existed in and around the Playhouse, I ticked off as easily obtainable. Those remaining 1 listed as possible to buy or borrow elsewhere. The largest problem was the flow­ ers. I tried the local florists. When this drew a blank I set about checking what exactly was required and looked around for the cheapest way of acquiring them. We finally brought from a local bargain shop and borrowed from members of the cast and crew.

After talking with the director, set desi gner and production manager, a final list of props was drawn up and were collected. As the scenes were being changed by the maids, the props involvement stopped at just setting up act I se I and sup­ plying the props in the correct order to the maids and actors thereafter. A running show bible was set up to facilitate this. CONCLUSION The response from the public was tremendous. Very good houses with the house full signs out on the last night and many people turned away. The production worked welL it was warmly appreciated by almost all who saw it. The play has its flaws - the production had its flaws. It is easy to be wise after the event. I am happy to say there was not too much I would have changed. We did not, I feel , in the end have enough rehearsal on stage with set and costumes, but then who ever does? 1 found the week of the show from get-in Sunday morning to fir s t night Wednesday very pressurised. Even with the tremendous support I received there was not always time to check or change some minor detail. The overall picture became the only thing to aim for and the nitpicking had to stop. I would have liked another day or two to nitpick.

I:J 'Uo

Ground plan for "Rebecca" PAGE 15

Rebecca - June 1991  

Alan Jones discusses his production of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier for Harlow Theatre Company

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