Mysterious countess stirs suspicions

Actors Alana Pearce, left, and Mitch Blyde are among the cast members starring in Howick Little Theatre’s production of the play My Cousin Rachel. Photo supplied Andrew Johnson

The 2022 season at Howick Little Theatre is finally about to get under way and it’s starting with a heavy dose of drama and desire.

The theatre’s production of the play My Cousin Rachel was supposed to begin on February 26 but was delayed for months by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s now set to run from May 13-28.

The production is a dramatic adaptation of British author Daphne du Maurier’s best-selling 1951 mystery romance novel of the same name and is directed by Howick Little Theatre veteran Terry Hooper.

Adapted for the stage by Joseph O’Connor, it tells the story of fictional character Rachel Sangalletti, an enigmatic countess who travels from Florence, Italy, to the Ashley Estate in the UK, the home of her recently-deceased husband.

When she arrives, “her presence arouses dark suspicions and uncontrollable desires, not least in young Philip, cousin and heir to the Ashley home”, the theatre says.

“Feverish passion battles reason in this classic Gothic romance set in the wild landscape of the rock-ribbed Cornish coast.”

The cast set to perform when the play was scheduled to begin in February has been retained and Hooper says its members are a “dream” to work with.

“They’re all very talented and work so hard to achieve our goal of exploring the themes of the play.

“All have worked together to make sure we created a real work of the large country estate in Cornwall.”

Hooper says the play will have wide appeal to people who enjoy thriller stories or those featuring romance or ghosts.

“It is such an exciting piece of work, well-written and a real modern working of a beautiful classic story.

My Cousin Rachel on the surface is a dark, gothic, murder mystery romance.

“But if you look a bit deeper and examine the twisting plot, the play challenges our attitudes toward sexism, toxic masculinity and how the way we see gender affects our behaviour.

“Not only does it highlight the absurdities of class and gender in 1870, it explicitly highlights the way the play’s characters are led by their false ideas.”

  • My Cousin Rachel
    Directed by Terry Hooper
    Howick Little Theatre, 1 Sir Lloyd Drive, Pakuranga
    Season: May 13-28, shows at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on May 15.
    www.hlt.org.nz