Cornish Gothic drama launches new Millgate season…and it’s not Poldark

DAPHNE du Maurier wrote the Birds that Alfred Hitchcock turned into an acclaimed film.

She was the author of short story, Don’t Look Now, that also became a cult movie starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.

And another of du Maurier’s stories, My Cousin Rachel, has been adapted for Saddleworth Players’ opening production of its new 2019/2020 season (September 28-October 5) at the Millgate Arts Centre.

Born in London, du Maurier lived for many years in Cornwall. “It’s a period thriller set 100 years later than Poldark,” says Greenfield-based director Carol Davies.

“And there’s always a dark edge to her stories with an enigmatic end. My Cousin Rachel is no different,” adds Carol whose recent collaborations with the Millgate included Playhouse Creatures and We Three Sisters.

“A Cornish landlord dies suddenly in Italy after a whirlwind courtship and marriage,” explains Carol.

“His heir, Philip Ashley (played by Sam Reid) suspects murder but when the widow, Rachel Ashley (played by Verity Mann) turns up she proceeds to seduce the whole neighbourhood including young Philip.”

There is also a cameo appearance by 11-year-old Max Fletcher, making his Millgate debut, as a servant boy.

My Cousin Rachel is also the first production to be staged at the newly refurbished Arts Centre.

“So, no pressure,” laughs Carol. “The main pressure is to get into the building to start building the set.

“We have been rehearsing at my home so it will be a relief to get on stage.

“The Players are such a good amateur company; the level of their acting is semi-professional level.
“You can go to performances and think ‘I could see that in a professional theatre.

“It is an honour and privilege to direct. them. I don’t need to work that hard; it is almost a case of just pulling it all together.”

The production on Sunday, September 29, is charity night in aid of Prevent Breast Cancer.

Busy Carol recently returned from helping to organise the Theatre from the Train community project in Wales.

She has also been asked to direct, ‘Road to Nab End’ at Playhouse 2, Shaw next April.

For good measure Carol has co-written a new play with local novelist, Libby Michael, about the first women in the UK allowed to sing in a church choir.

She explained: “It all happened in Oldham in 1701 which is unbelievable.

“It would be great if we could put it on at St Mary’s Church in Oldham. So, I am not short of things to do.”

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