Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Remnants, festivals and plays (oh, my!)

Keighley News features Su Blackwell and her artwork at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
Credits: Su Blackwell 2010 - www.sublackwell.co.uk
An artist has been cutting up Brontë novels to create new works of art.
Su Blackwell is displaying the results in various rooms of the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Remnants, which runs until November 28, features “site-specific” installations inspired by the Haworth museum’s collections.
Su was inspired by Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, as well as the themes of childhood, imagination and storytelling.
Sheffield-born Su creates book-cut sculptures which are intricate three-dimensional illustrations cut from the pages of books and inspired by the stories inside.
For the new exhibition she developed the scope and scale of her sculptures and they are being displayed among the Brontës’ own possessions. The pieces are described as delicate interventions suggesting the Brontës’ imaginary worlds and hinting at a spirit world still present. (David Knights)
Another recent event at the Brontë Parsonage Museum was this past weekend's Brontë Festival of Women's Writing. The Brontë Parsonage Blog posts about it.
Katrina Naomi, the first Writer in Residence at the Parsonage, read first on Saturday evening (18 September), mainly from The Girl with the Cactus Handshake. She was powerful, in spite of being a touch nervous I think, performing just before the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. I was most impressed by Tunnel of Love, probably because I have my own strong childhood memories of her home town of Margate with its fascinating shell grotto and its now abandoned amusement centre for holidaying East Enders, Dreamland. Her teenage memories of the place and its hypnotic tawdriness were conveyed in a confessional and amusing style, making her an excellent lead-in for the dryly humorous Duffy.
We laughed with her: she was as confident as a stand-up, beginning with Mrs Midas and Mrs Tiresias, explaining how she had been worried by the stories when she had first read them and how productive it was to mine Ovid's Metamorphoses, an endlessly glittering seam. At one point she sneezed, and muttered something about just missing a Bible. She can't often read from behind a lectern in a Baptist church, surely. (Richard Wilcocks) (Read more)
The New Statesman vindicates the work of Elizabeth Gaskell at length and comments on the exhibition Elizabeth Gaskell: A Connected Life at the John Rylands University Library, Manchester. Pity, though, it's one of those articles that need to put somebody else down in order to praise the person in question.
Even in the early 1990s - the peak of the passion among English departments in universities for literary theory - when Gaskell was reassessed by feminist critics, she was somehow found wanting. They were kind, and righteously indignant on her behalf. But they mostly preferred the weight of George Eliot or the weirdness of the Brontës, or to show off by competitively digging up ever more obscure "forgotten" women writers whose names were excitingly unfamiliar and whose novels would look good packaged as Virago paperbacks. (Rachel Cooke)
Mrs Gaskell's Sylvia's Lovers, for instance, weights as much as any novel by George Elliot (we take it that the weight remark is meant that way) and she could be very weird when she wanted to, as can been widely seen in her Gothic Tales. But Elizabeth Gaskell's strengths, or Elliot's or the Brontës', do not lie there.

The same article also remarks - more benignly - on the page on display from her Life of Charlotte Brontë:
And the sheer industriousness that writing then involved! A folio from the manuscript of The Life of Charlotte Brontë is on display and the hand all but aches at the sight of it - the dense script, the crossings out, every phrase having demanded a fresh visit to the inkwell. (Rachel Cooke)
On the other side of the pond, Lifeline Theatre's Wuthering Heights continues to be reviewed. The Theater Loop - a Chicago Tribune blog is quite lukewarm about it:
Thanks to the all-live Lindsay Leopold — who has the cat-on-a-hot-bricks thing down — Lifeline's Cathy certainly claws her way toward Gregory Isaac's handsome, curly-haired, nicely wounded Heathcliff with the necessary seething sensuality, and without any invasive post-modern subtlety to get in the lovers' way. But Christina Calvit's adaptation, and thus Elise Kauzlaric's production, gets strangely bogged down on the narrative twists and turns in the Brontë novel. And neither lead actor looks wholly secure.
Aside from the issue of stuffing this epic of longing into two hours of stage time, part of the problem is that Calvit has switched narrators — handing off those duties to the housekeeper Nelly Dean (well played by Cameron Feagin). [...] If you're one of the few people left who don't know this story, I'm not sure it will fully emerge for you here. I eavesdropped, and several of those around me were confused.
Nonetheless, the show has its moments. Lifeline's adaptations (Calvit's in particular) are invariably honorable and competent. And the acting here is mostly good — especially the no-nonsense Lucy Carpetyan as Catherine Linton and Robert Kaulzaric's take on fusty old Edgar. But the show struggles to find a consistent style and lacks a unified language.
Leopold and Isaac's scenes often involve stylized movement — throb, throb — but then other sections of the show are prosaic and straight-up in presentation. It never fully gels. Moreover, this show doesn't ever really capture the brooding Yorkshire moors themselves. The world could be much darker, foggier, stranger and, well, more sensually complicated. (Chris Jones) (Read more)
Les Brontë à Paris has translated an excerpt from Branwell Brontë's And the Weary Are at Rest into French. Emily's Blog reviews April Lindner's Jane. A Striped Armchair discusses Justine Picardie's My Mother's Wedding Dress (and since Justine Picardie is a good friend of BrontëBlog's do let us point to her just-published new book even if it's not Brontë-related: Coco Chanel. The Legend and the Life). Finally, The Sleepless Reader, member of the Brussels Brontë Group, posts about a recent Literary Weekend in London organised by the group.

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