Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alien abduction in Brontë country

Cathy Marston's Wuthering Heights ballet continues generating reviews in the press. Unfortunately, though, The Independent gives it only 2 out of 5 stars:

Considered as a possible dance adaptation, Wuthering Heights is a daunting prospect. Emily Brontë's novel is famous for its driven characters and brooding power, but it also has a rambling, jumpy narrative, stuffed with intricate relationships. Cathy Marston's new dance version strips down the novel, simplifying the plot. But the stylised choreography and designs smooth away contrasts between characters. Despite some atmospheric moments, Marston is a long way from Brontë's Romantic fury.
Jann Messerli's set is a spare evocation of the novel's moorland setting. Dark, angled shapes suggest hills and houses. Overhead, horizontal rods suggest lowering clouds. Dorothee Brodrück's costumes are similarly stylised, with little sense of period: Cathy wears a short, light dress and leggings.
The designs are non-specific but atmospheric. When the choreography takes the same approach, however, it comes across as vagueness. Marston shows Cathy surrounded by the men in her life, trying to keep a grip on her soulmate Heathcliff, on her stepbrother, on her husband. The characters circle each other, clasping hands or pulling away, yearning from opposite ends of the stage.
Though Gary Marshall broods away as Heathcliff, his steps are rarely wilder or fiercer than anybody else's. Only his violent dance with Isabella has any sense of anger to set him apart from the politeness of the Linton family.
It can be hard to tell her characters apart, particularly since Marston also adds "echoes" of Cathy and Heathcliff, extra dancers who act out their emotions. The echo effect can be striking – but it does increase the numbers of hard-to-identify characters on stage.
The score is by Dave Maric, who sets Mich Gerber's double bass, played live, against electronic samples of the same instrument. It creates a soundscape of sweeping lines, knocks and scribbles that suggest howling gales.
Performances are light in tone – not surprisingly, given their setting and choreography. Jenny Tattersall dances Cathy with focus, her attentive movement suggesting the character's fixations. Chien-Ming Chang and Hui-Chen Tsai, as Linton and his sister Isabella, do well as cooler characters drawn into the turmoil of Cathy and Heathcliff's relationships – even if the turmoil itself is underplayed in this production. (Zoe Anderson)
Playbill has a reminder of a very sad event:
2001 Several high-profile Broadway shows close after being shut out of the Tony Awards. Despite a last-minute cash infusion from songwriter Alanis Morrisette, Jane Eyre ends a six-month money-losing run. (Robert Viagas, Ernio Hernandez and Anne Bradley)
While on the stage topic, and although only tangentially connected with the Brontës, we have found quite remarkable the following fragment from The Times:
By the standards of experimental theatre, eight hours is puny stuff. Probably the longest play to appear on the British stage was Neil Oram’s 22-hour hippy odyssey, The Warp.
Ken Campbell’s 1979 production included two meal breaks and a 2.30am interval as it veered from medieval Bavaria to an alien abduction in Brontë country. (Chris Smyth)
We are pretty sure that somewhere someone inspired by that reference is plotting away a new theory behind Emily's creation of Wuthering Heights.

The Guardian continues with its walking articles, and they seem to still be in love with Yorkshire.
The magnificent views show the use to which they put the fine, durable sandstone. A whole sea of 19th-century reservoir dams trap water from every clough, and the distant stone terraces include the Brontë village of Haworth. (Martin Wainwright)
No mention of abductions, though.

It is two years since Gordon Brown was likened to Mrs Rochester (he would turn into Heathcliff soon after that), but the image seems to have stuck - or at least it has with the writer at UTV News.
Field too is a magnificent loner, though more feline and obnoxious than Shepherd, whom I have never heard utter a mean word, unlike Frank's excellent – and unwise – joke about Gordon Brown being like the first Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre, ie a mad woman locked in the attic. Of course, if you read Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea (as I did recently) you see Mrs R's fate very differently. (Michael White)
Look at him, introducing nuances and all!

Wide Sargasso Sea is actually a handy example to make a point in the Salinger vs sequels debate. Reason argues:
Wide Sargasso Sea, a campus favorite for over a decade, is now routinely taught in conjunction with Jane Eyre, and has put Charlotte Bronte's mid-19th century novel smack at the center of contemporary academic debates over feminism and post- colonialism. (Nick Gillespie)
Incindentally, Dan Brown (not that Dan Brown) writes about teaching Jane Eyre in The Huffington Post:
You've got students that have great difficulty reading young adult books or writing complete sentences being assessed on independently reading novels like Jane Eyre and composing analytical essays on Bronte's style.
In Utah This Week interviews the owner of Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore.
IN: What rare books are you proudest of? [...]
We've got the first book by the Brontë sisters. You know, they published it under the name Bell because they were pretending to be men. This precedes their famous books. It's just poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, and that's a $4,500 book. (Kelly Ashkettle)
Their catalogue gives further information:
The Very First Book by Charlotte, Emily and Their Sister Anne
61. Bell, Currer, Ellis and Acton [Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte]. Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1846. 1st edition, 2nd issue. 165 pages. 16mo. Blind embossed green cloth with gilt lettering. In very good condition with light bumping and rubbing to edges and a few small chips from spine ends. Spine is gently rolled and backstrip is uniformly darkened to brown. A small card with former owner's name in pencil is mounted on the front pastedown. Rear pastedown has a tiny bookseller's label and brief pencil note. Pages are very clean. Lacking errata slip. No advertisements at rear. This collection of poetry is the first publishing effort of the illustrious Bronte sisters. Poems was first published by Aylott and Jones in 1846. Only two copies were sold and remaining unbound quires were subsequently sold to Smith and Elder who bound them in 1848 with a new title page bearing their imprint but retaining the date of the original printing. However, between these dates, under the same pseudonyms Charlotte had published Jane Eyre; Emily had published Wuthering Heights; and Anne had published The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. This is why ads for these 1847 titles, appear in the front of this volume. The success of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights place Charlotte and Emily securely in the canon of English literature. This copy of their first published work is in very good condition. Copies of it are increasingly hard to locate.
RBELPOE00tw $4,500
Emily Brontë reigns supreme on the blogosphere today: Dreams and Escapes writes about Wuthering Heights. 5-Squared posts about Emily Brontë and her literary output. And erinbow nominates Wuthering Heights as one of the books that would benefit from a few zombies.

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Comments :

2 comments to “ Alien abduction in Brontë country ”
tattycoram said...
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This is a good blog entry by the Guardian's Sam Jordison.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/jun/10/brontes-alive-unwell-haworth

Cristina said...
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Thanks so much - you've probably seeen we posted it. It was a fantastic article!

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