REVIEW: Horncastle Theatre Company's My Cousin Rachel is nothing short of terrific

After a delay of more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, My Cousin Rachel, directed by Chris Rozier, assisted by Chris Hinkins, is finally being staged by Horncastle Theatre Company this week – and it’s well worth the wait.

The cast of My Cousin Rachel.
The cast of My Cousin Rachel.

A gothic drama set in the 18th century, My Cousin Rachel sees young Phillip Ashley, played by Russell Alder, take in his cousin’s wife, the titular Rachel (Anna Maria Vesey), who has fled from Italy after the death of her husband – with a rumour that she may have killed him.

Before long, Phillip begins to fall in love with his older cousin, much to the disapproval of his guardian Uncle Nick (Alan Paine) and Nick’s daughter Louise (Natasha Lowes) as he starts to lavish the family’s jewels and heirlooms on her.

But when the rumours of the “mysterious” circumstances of Rachel’s husband’s demise reach Phillip’s ears, his feelings soon sour and what happens next...you’ll have to wait and see!

Russell Alder’s performance as Phillip will have the audience gripped from start to finish, as we first root for the aloof, slightly highly-strung young man, to wanting to give him a shake as he starts to lose his head as a man deeply in love, and then being frightened of him as his love turns sinister.

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But is Rachel a scheming murderess or a grossly maligned woman? Anna Maria’s captivating turn as the glamourous widow will have you guessing all the way through, and without giving away any spoilers, the answer may – or may not – surprise you.

The audience will have nothing but sympathy for Uncle Nick and Louise thanks to the brilliant perfomances of Alan and Natasha, and we start to see Rachel through their eyes as they struggle to get through to Phillip.

Ably supporting servants Seecombe (Thomas Peckham) and James (Joe Bramley) do a terrific job of assisting both their master and the transition of the scenes, and pull off the difficult Cornish accent with aplomb, and Dan Barrett also has a terrific turn as the mysterious Italian gentleman Antonio Ronaldi.

The team have also done a terrific job on the set design, and the gothic feel to the stage only adds further to the atmosphere.

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The production takes to the stage tomorrow night (Wednesday), running until Saturday 10 and once again, Horncastle Theatre Company has put on an incredible show that is definitely not to be missed. Our town boasts some incredible acting and directing talent and I’d encourage everyone to go and support them.

Tickets are available via Horncastle Theatre Company’s website at https://www.horncastletheatre.co.uk/book-tickets/