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Rebecca…

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There is nothing like a good “classic” to get your acting teeth into, and they don’t come much more “classic” than Daphne Du Maurier’s fabulous story, Rebecca. The North eastern Players stage their own production of the play across five nights in November 1947.  Who knows what influenced our merry band to act out this dark, compelling tale? Perhaps the infamous Winter of 47, when it seemed as if the whole of Britain turned to ice, had something to do with it. As usual Martins Bank Magazine provides its own take on the proceedings, and once again it does not hold back on the praise for this most talented group of players.  Jean Anderson’s portrayal of Mrs De Winter is described as “another triumph” and even the diction of the actors is commented upon. These must have been exciting days for the staff who were members of one of the Bank’s Operatic and Dramatic Societies. On top their demanding work at the Bank, they still manage to produce top notch dramas and comedies with a professionalism that rather makes the word “amateur” seem redundant!  Despite their age, the photgraphs from this particular production convey well the dark and moody atmosphere of the play. We are also fortunate enough to have a copy of the original programme, which is reproduced below…

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The autumn production of this company took place at the Little Theatre, Gateshead, and was staged for five nights, from November nth to i5th inclusive. “Rebecca” (Daphne du Maurier) is an ambitious play, calling for a high quality of acting apart from the spoken lines.   In fact, the presentation of the most tense and dramatic moments of the play depends upon the acting of the characters who are not, at those moments, actually speaking. Right at the outset let it be said that the most faultless bit of character acting was that of Bill Young, who took the part of the boatman. The make-up was excellent and the dialect so good that there was never any danger of anyone being reminded that it was only Bill Young after all.

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Left to Right: Isobel Dean, Norman Watson, Kim Young, Edmund Blaylock, Norah Wilkie, Jean Anderson, Harry Smurthwaite, and Doris Heron

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Jean Anderson scored another triumph as Mrs. de Winter. Her rendering of the shy young bride was most appealing and as the play moved to its climax she carried the audience with her in her mortification, her loving solicitude for her husband and her tense fear as the investigations proceeded. “Blithe Spirit” showed Jean to be a talented young actress ; “Rebecca” set the seal on her versatility. Edward Blaylock as Colonel Julyan looked and acted every inch the Chief Constable, and the casting was just right.

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Jean Anderson as Mrs de Winter

At the beginning Charles Knight as Jack Favell was not quite supercilious and sneering enough, but as the action advanced he quite succeeded in convincing the audience of the depths of his depravity. Harry Smurthwaite as Maxim de Winter looked so very mature and Jean Anderson looked so very much the girl bride that one wondered at the beginning whether the partnership would be a good one, but Harry Smurthwaite's display of irascibility alternating with his restrained display of affection for his wife offset Jean's interpretation of her part admirably. Isobel Dean and Norman Watson as Beatrice and Giles Lacy provided the light relief and rocked the audience in the ballroom scene.  It was neatly done and each acted as a perfect foil for the other.

Norah Wilkie as Mrs Danvers

 

Nora Wilkie took the part of Mrs. Danvers and by her acting even more than her speech, conveyed the deadly nature of this forbidding character.Those who  remembered her rendering of the part of the maid in " Blithe Spirit " were delighted with the complete success she made of this totally different role. Donald Thompson took the part of Frank Crawley, the sympathetic estate manager. His kindly discretion and tactful handling of Mr. and Mrs. de Winter were most pleasing and suggested that the job of confidential secretary is right up his street. The remaining parts were those of Frith, taken by Ken Young, and Alice, played by Doris Heron. They were both rendered very naturally. The set is a difficult one to stage, but it was most attractively presented, and great credit is due to those friends of Mrs. Violet Hall, the producer, who did this part of the work so effectively. The set was designed "by an artist from the People's Theatre, Newcastle, and erected by him and the Stage Manager, together with two other members from that theatre. In conclusion, it would seem that Mrs. Hall is competent enough to tackle the most ambitious play. She deserves every credit for the success of this one, apart from a small share which belongs to her husband, Mr. R. Charlton Hall, in his new role as Stage Manager.

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