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"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."What'sOnStage gives 3 stars out of 5 to The Brontës of Dunwich Heath and Cliff.
From its haunting first line to its famous closer, "Reader, I married him", Charlotte Brontë takes her audience by the throat with a fierce narrative of great immediacy. Jane Eyre's voice on the page is almost hypnotic. The reader can hardly resist turning the next page, and the next…
In an extraordinary breakthrough for the English novel, borrowing the intimacy of the 18th-century epistolary tradition, Charlotte Brontë had found a way to mesmerise the reader through an intensely private communion with her audience. We, the author, and Jane Eyre become one. For this, she can be claimed as the forerunner of the novel of interior consciousness. Add to this a prose style of unvarnished simplicity and you have the Victorian novel that cast a spell over its generation. Even today, many readers will never forget the moment they first entered the strange, bleak world of this remarkable book.
The magic of Jane Eyre begins with Charlotte Brontë herself. She began to write her second novel (The Professor had just been rejected) in August 1846. A year later it was done, much of it composed in a white heat. The reading public was spellbound. Thackeray's daughter says that the novel (which was dedicated to her father) "set all London talking, reading, speculating". She herself reports that she was "carried away by an undreamed-of and hitherto unimagined whirlwind".
There are three principal elements to Brontë's magic. First, the novel is cast, from the title page, as "an autobiography". This is a convention derived from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (No 2 in this series). But the adventure offered by the author is an interior one. Jane Eyre portrays the urgent quest of its narrator for an identity. Jane, who cannot remember her parents, and as an orphan has no secure place in the world, is in search of her "self" as a young, downtrodden woman. (Robert McCrum) (Read more)
This year the satirical target is the Brontës' distant Suffolk cousins, who wish to ape their northern relatives when it comes to literary success and eventful living. Regular audiences have enjoyed the mocking of these genres combined with the timely and local nature of the comedy, but this year, while there were some excellent one-liners, none of the comedy seems to have a decent dramatic base.The East Anglian Daily Times reviews the production as well.
The Brontës of Dunwich Heath and Cliff seems to be a disjointed set of sketches threaded together to make a story. At times, the production feels like a stream of consciousness on Brontë-related subjects, with the Kate Bush "Wuthering Heights" musical refrain making many appearances. At one point we have Cliff Richard auditioning for "Heathcliff".
The compact cast of this production work well together as an ensemble, but a sense of verve was missing at the preview performance I saw. However, there are many highlights: Cameron Johnson, as well as having the biggest presence on stage, also garners many laughs in his portrayal as the creole Mrs Rochester. Sophie Reid captures the wayward spirit of Cathy both in song and in person and Laura Corbett gives a solid performance as Plain Jane Brontë.
Credit should also be given to the set constructors, who have designed a simple, effective and versatile setting and also come up with some inventive touches, such as the doll-sized hang-gliders which Sir Fred (Cameron Johnson) and Reid wear in one episode of the story. (Wilf Arasaratnam)
Ever wondered where the Bronte sisters got their ideas for their novels? Well, it would seem, from their Suffolk cousins living in the crumbling ancient town of Dunwich. [...]Oliver Kamm's column in The Times has a few Brontë references:
In this show we get tales of Parliamentary shenanigans, property speculation, Dunwich’s status as a rotten borough and echoes of Kate Bush’s own take on Wuthering Heights.
Laura Corbett and Sophie Reid were superb as both sets of Bronte sisters (hailing from Suffolk and Yorkshire) swapping hats and accents with lovely comic timing while Harry Waller had a ball playing the naive Rev Bronte and the duplicitous Mr Rochester.
Clare Hawes seemed to have multiple identities playing a host of parts from Post Mistress to housekeeper to a member of a rather shifty coastguard, while complaining of only getting small parts. Cameron Johnson was a huge presence on stage playing the evil property speculator Sir Fred and the buxom Caribbean-born Mrs Rochester.
There were plenty of inspired moments and set pieces – I thought the hang-gliding sequences with puppets attached to the actors was hilarious – but sadly this show was less than the sum of its parts.
For whatever reason, the creative spark was lacking this year. I think the plot was far too complicated and there were simply not enough jokes. The show had something of an identity crisis and couldn’t decide what it wanted to be – a comic send-up of a literary genre or a comic play with a story to tell. In the end it tried to do both and ended up being very long as a result. You could easily trim 10 minutes off the second half.
The songs were clever, witty but apart from The Company of Women not particularly memorable. This year the evening lacked the lightness of touch you normally get from one of our most experienced and reliable companies. When compared it to their usual sparkling Christmas extravaganzas, it felt a little bit flat. (Andrew Clarke)
Having moved to London recently, I no longer have a rail commute but journey by foot to The Times. And I've made a recreational discovery: I like being read to. I download unabridged novels and listen to them on the way. Sometimes I walk round the park when I'm nearing home to five time to finish the chapter. I've got through a fair amount of Waugh, Greene and Charlotte Brontë in the past few weeks.The Huffington Post has a few suggestions for autumn and winter days out with the family. Among them is,
I initially doubted this form of "reading", as I like to ponder what's on the page, but it has unexpected merits. Listening to a narrator is the only way I'm likely to get through Trollope, whose pride in his productivity was a tad misplaced. And the plot of Brontë's Villette, where I am now, is constructed as so leisurely a pace that I'm unlikely to miss anything crucial while a passing juggernaut drowns out the sound.
Brontë Parsonage Museum
The Brontë sisters are some of the most pivotal and moving authors of the 19th century. They originally went under masculine pseudonyms, and between them released Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Jane Eyre -- all of them are now considered literary masterpieces.
They grew up in a parsonage in a small Yorkshire village called Haworth. This has been converted into the Brontë museum and contains some of the most important relics left behind by the sisters. Nearby, you can visit the church where all but Anne were buried and walk along the moors; generally accepted as Emily's setting for her wildly arresting novel, Wuthering Heights. (Zoe Williams)