Review: Mysterious romance makes for an enjoyable night at the Talisman in Kenilworth

Secrets abound in My Cousin Rachel
Secrets abound in My Cousin Rachel

Charles Essex reviews My Cousin Rachel at the Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth

How much do we know people when we meet them, even after spending time in their company? People have always hidden their pasts, indeed in the Victorian era with no telephones and letters taking weeks to arrive it was easier than now.

We were voyeurs to the embarrassing infatuation of Philip, wealthy but naïve in the ways of women, with the seemingly impecunious Italian widow of his beloved older cousin who arrived from Florence. Was all as it seemed?

Suitably dressed in black throughout, Kirsty-Ann Campbell as Rachel kept us guessing as to whether she was indeed a black widow who killed off husbands and suitors when they were no longer of use to her. The Talisman props team did the actors proud with costumes and a single set that evoked a Victorian landowner’s home and Colin Ritchie was his usual stalwart self throughout as the loyal butler seemingly unaware of the tensions between his master and Rachel throughout her increasingly lengthy stay on the estate.

Phil Spencer as the love-struck Philip almost appealed to us to call out not to do it as he gave the family jewels [literally] and his estate to Rachel. Blinded by passion he even ignored his best friends’ warnings. Everyone but Philip could see what was coming. Paradoxically Philip’s threats to in effect stalk Rachel had reminiscences of domestic abuse of a spurned lover. Plus ça change…

When Senor Rainaldi, Rachel’s lawyer and probable lover, was on stage, the expression of his feelings for Rachel were palpably more sincere despite him knowing exactly the person she was, but would have been better without his faux Italian accent. The pace of the play was slow and could have been shortened with some more dynamic dialogue but once again the whole Talisman team delivered an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.