My Cousin Rachel

Malvern Theatres


You almost feel as though you are in Cornwall with the sound of waves lashing against rocks and the rugged coastline looming ahead in the excellent set greeting the audience.

The revolving stage feels rich with detail and even includes a crackling fire and dramatic curved staircase to bring to life Daphne Du Maurier's psychological tale.

Adapted to stage by Joseph O'Conner, this production from Theatre Royal Bath is a slow-burner, building tension and suspicion gently through the two and a half hour play.

Headlining as the intriguing, beautiful stranger Rachel is Call The Midwife actress Helen George. She plays the young Italian widow of Philip Ashley's uncle, who died suddenly in Florence, leaving Philip about to inherit the estate in Cornwall.

The mysterious Rachel turns up from Italy amid rumours of her reputation and strange letters that the uncle wrote while in a fever.

Opposite George is the affable Jack Holden as Philip. He's perfectly cast as the naive young man, on the eve of his 25th birthday, who constantly moves between furious suspicion and adoration for the beguiling Rachel.

Holden, whose previous roles have been in War Horse at the National Theatre, Oppenheimer at the RSC and Ink at the Almeida in London, feels young and vibrant and is the glue that keeps this story evolving.

He has strong support from Simon Shepherd as family friend and solicitor Nicholas Kendall, a natural on stage, but then he does have decades of experience in theatre and TV from shows like Peak Practice, Death in Paradise and Riviera.

George has a suitably feisty nature as Rachel, toeing the line between flirtatious and respectful, but she has a strange clipped English accent with the occasional Italian word thrown in, which doesn't quite fit with the roots of this Italian Contessa. She also comes across as very British, while the intrigue of Rachel is supposed to be her unique foreign charm.

The pace is gentle and while enjoyable enough, it never really reaches the expected crescendo and big reveal moment.

While the acting is strong, especially the two male servants - Sean Murray as Seecombe and John Lumsden as Thomas, it's the superb stage that is the memorable aspect of this production. 

It's a mixed bag of atmospheric yet not quite tense enough for a psychological thriller to modern day standards.

My Cousin Rachel is an enjoyable enough drama and while visually striking on stage with strong performances, it lacks the bite needed to give it the edge. To 07-12-19

Alison Brinkworth


Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre