Friday, October 09, 2015

WhatsOnStage gives 3 stars out of 5 to National Youth Theatre's take on Wuthering Heights.
The Brontës are big in London right now. Over at the National Theatre, the Bristol Old Vic's five-star adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's tragic love story Jane Eyre is delighting audiences. And now the plucky young National Youth Theatre have taken on a Bronte of their own. Emily Brontë's love story of a very different sort, Wuthering Heights, features in their annual West End season. [...]
Stephanie Street's contemporary version for the NYT opens with Cathy and Heathcliff being reunited at her graveside and looking back over their past. It's a watery, lacklustre beginning and Cecilia Carey's ghostly designs – with actors' faces lit-up behind a big translucent sheet at the back of the stage – don't do much to make it feel any stronger.
But once the story gets going, Street's adaptation moves along at an impressive pace. Street makes it very much about race. The strange orphan 'cuckoo' Heathcliff is racially abused from the beginning. The name-calling from his so-called family makes his desertion and ultimate desire for revenge all the more understandable.
But the conceit of having several actors playing Cathy and Heathcliff as they get older jars. It feels mainly as though it's an attempt to make sure as many of the ensemble as possible get their moment onstage. The chopping and changing means it's hard to connect with the characters.
There are some strong performances from the young cast, specifically Oliver West and Conor Neaves as the young Heathcliff and Alice Feetham as Ellen. The company do their best to draw out the characters, but ultimately the adaptation tries a little too hard to re-invent the tale for the theatre. They needn't have bothered. Emily Brontë's masterful story would be enough to work its own dark magic pretty much anywhere it was told. (Daisy Bowie-Sell)
Plays to See also recommends it:
As the scenes play out, the different motivations behind Catherine and Heathcliff’s actions are explored, and the two characters begin to understand one another’s behaviour, although at times something we have already taken for granted is presented as a shocking revelation, and those who are very familiar with the novel may be disappointed at the lack of deeper exploration. There are a few elements of the production which feel distinctly amateur, but on the whole, this an impressive attempt to capture Wuthering Heights for a modern audience, and it showcases the talent of the National Youth Theatre’s cast and crew. (Nicola Watkinson)
A Younger Theatre reviews it too.
Stephanie Street’s reworking of Emily Bronté’s (sic) Wuthering Heights is the first of 2015 and includes not one, but five Cathys and Heathcliffs. Giving you a headache just reading that? Hang on. The NYT has made a clear point here of highlighting the frequently-talked-about-and-especially-right-now issue of colour-blind casting by picking actors of different races to be the two leads. The various stages in Cathy and Heathcliff’s lives, from growing up to growing away, producing life and destroying others, are played by a series of the young actors and has almost been departmentalised. The Wuthering Heights we see here, though having a concise and fluid story, is in danger of losing the connection one should feel for such emotional characters because very different looking actors with different approaches are being slotted in.
Is there an irony that NYT have incorporated here? Are they playing on how heavily colour-blind casting is being handled at the moment? It’s great that characters such as these, so dominant in the canon as they are, and so set in people’s minds, are being played on. It’s a really great thing to see. But couldn’t they have done that with just one or two actors per role? There’s deliberacy here that, though important to offer and highlight, creates an unfortunate wall between us and how we connect to the characters. I found myself swaying towards specific ‘Cathys’ and ‘Heathcliffs’ rather than loving and feeling for the character as a whole.
Megan Parkinson and Lauren Lyle give fantastic interpretations of Cathy. Parkinson is raw, unsure and bloody funny. Lyle’s Scottish and final version gives great and real, epic emotion. There’s also some very strong performances by Ellise Chappell, Melissa Taylor and particularly Alice Feetham whose Ellen cripples one’s heart with her desire for her child.
The Heathcliffs fail to even share an ounce of stage presence with their other halves. Luke Pierre stands out with an impressive and contrasting physique, his brooding, quietly dangerous temperament highlighting the boy’s transition into manhood. Oliver West is animalistic and quite frightening but there doesn’t seem to be enough fluidity between the different versions to explain how startlingly different he is to the predecessor.
Cecilia Carey has given us a bleak and very muddy set that has plenty of atmosphere, with the aid of Josh Pharo’s lighting and Emma Laxton’s sound. It never feels as though we are roaming the moors, but heck, that’s never going to be easy to illustrate on stage.
Emily Lim has done a great job with this production and yes, the series of different actors slipping in and out as the protagonists makes it difficult to engage with them fully, but it’s certainly a very interesting and engaging approach. (Samuel Sims)
And Stephanie Street herself writes about it in The Huffington Post.
I first read Wuthering Heights when I was sixteen, not long after I had moved to rural Dorset from the tropical swelter of Singapore. Until then England had been an escapist fantasy to me; we'd come most summers to visit my grandparents who lived on the edge of the New Forest but my grasp of the place went as far as penny sweets, double decker buses and the occasional wild pony spotted on a forest walk.
I don't remember how I came to reading it; it wasn't on the syllabus or anything worthy like that. What I do remember is lying for hours in the bath (one of the many upsides of the winter experience), the near transparent pages of my Penguin Classics edition limp in the warm, wet air, and me almost as wild with passion and despair as Cathy. I don't think I'd ever been so transported by anything before in my life... A country which famously outlawed chewing gum didn't offer much in the way of that, you see. But it was so utterly intoxicating to my susceptible, teenaged self, the intractable greyness of it all. The dark, Yorkshire hills that have faced down millennia and that deep, terrifying, all-encompassing love. It's thanks to that bath-time experience that I suffered quite so many catastrophic heartaches in my twenties.
Revisiting Cathy now, with my forties in clear view, I miss how immense everything felt then (I certainly miss being able to spend an entire evening in the bath with a novel for company). That's why I think Wuthering Heights tugs at the hearts of generation after generation of readers. The vastness of it all. Wherever in the world you are, something about the eternal rocks and the enduring, crazy love of Brontë's imagination makes you want to live and love forever. (Read more)
Gaslight is on stage at the Keighley Playhouse and Keighley News says that,
The play follows the tradition of Jane Eyre and Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde by having Hamilton explore the duality lurking within the psyche of his characters. (David Knights)
The Shortlist has interviewed actor Tom Hiddleston in connection with his role in the film Crimson Peak and apparently
He also ploughed through a gothic romance reading list supplied by Del Toro, to the point where he sounds somewhere between Ann Radcliffe superfan and Emily Brontë biographer. (Andrew Dickens)
Inspired by this film, Inverse looks into the comeback (?) of the Gothic genre.
[Ellen Ledoux, an English professor at Rutgers who specializes in gothic literature] explains that Crimson Peak’s narrative model — a haunted house, a romantic hero, and an ingenue — goes back to Ann Radcliffe. “Where a young innocent women is in this large gothic space, threatened with things like rape and extortion or taking away property — you have Jane Eyre in 19th century, then Rebecca in the 20th century. These narratives seem to resonate even though women’s situations are different. They always track at moments women are pushing for change.” [...]
Although the damsel in distress is a common gothic trope, “it’s not like women are victimized,” Ledoux says. “Often this fantasy realm is one where they do better than the real world. Women authors use gothic space to think about terrible things that might happen, but the heroine circumvents them and shows women being capable and able. It’s quite different from a horror movie where she just stands there and screams while someone comes there with a chainsaw.” (Lauren Sarner)
Daily Life (Australia) interviews Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette about their latest film Miss You Already.
This obsession with Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Surely no one thinks he's this dreamy, romantic type anymore? Toni: I don't! (laughs). In the movie, he's just representing something the characters have shared from an early age.
Drew: I was so obsessed with the movie version growing up. Laurence Olivier was just so amazing in that role and I think he did make Heathcliff empathetic, like less crazy and more tragic. (Rob Moran)
Yesterday was National Poetry Day and NME celebrated by listing 'artists who've put poems to music'. Such as
8. 'OVERGROWN' – JAMES BLAKE An encounter with Joni Mitchell and her wise words made James Blake consider how to craft a long-lasting career for himself. 'Overgrown' sees him reference Emily Dickinson's poem 'All Overgrown by Cunning Moss', which mourns the death of Charlotte Brontë, in his ruminations on the possibility of longevity. The album it's named after won him a Mercury Prize. (Larry Bartleet)
The Daily Mail seems to have celebrated - or whatever - by looking at the sensationalist side of Ted Hughes's life based on Jonathan Bate's biography of him.
Bate is surely right when he suggests that the reason why Hughes insisted Plath should be buried at Heptonstall in Yorkshire, near where they had lived, was that, to him, she had become like Cathy in Wuthering Heights.
As for Hughes, he was her Heathcliff, forever wandering the moors in search of his lost love. (John Preston)
For a more Brontë-esque take on the celebrations, check the Brontë Parsonage Facebook page, AnneBrontë.org and The Brontë Sisters.

The Guardian on fan fiction:
Fan fiction-like reimaginings have been a key critical and novelistic tool in the 20th century, in books like Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, which famously constructs a backstory for the character of Mrs Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, or Aimé Césaire’s Une Tempête, which reinvents The Tempest from a postcolonial perspective. (Elizabeth Minkel)
And The Washington Post on unreliable narrators:
Art has a tradition of setting traps. Unreliable narrators have had a career in modern storytelling at least since Emily Brontë wrote “Wuthering Heights.” (Christopher Byrd)
The Telegraph wonders about Professor Snape's rise to 'Harry Potter's most unlikely sex symbol'.
For [Dr Eleanor Spencer-Regan, who teaches at the Department of English Studies at Durham University], Snape is as much of a tragic hero as the Brontës’s Mr Rochester or Heathcliff. As one post online surmises: “He’s a cold, mean and selfish man on the outside, but inside he is a hurt, sad, depressed and lonely little boy.” (Alice Vincent)
Catholic World Report reviews the book The Oxford Movement: Europe and the Wider World 1830-1930, a collection of essays edited by Stewart J. Brown and Peter B. Nockles. Some of Charlotte Brontë's many scathing words on Catholicism are quoted:
Indeed, [John Henry] Newman’s sister, Harriett, who traveled to Normandy with her husband Thomas Mozley at the same time that Newman was moving closer and closer to Rome was horrified by the extent to which their French hosts regarded this “imminent conversion” as a fait accompli. In this regard, she was one with Charlotte Brontë, who wrote from Brussels in 1842, “My advice to all Protestants who are tempted to do anything so besotted as turn Catholics, is, to walk over the sea on to the Continent; to attend mass sedulously for a time; to note well the mummeries thereof; also the idiotic, mercenary aspect of all the priests; and then, if they are still disposed to consider Papistry in any other light than a most feeble, childish piece of humbug, let them turn Papists at once…” (Edward Short)
Scotsman reports that the quest to find Scotland's favourite literary quote is on and our Emily has made it to the shortlist with the closing lines of Wuthering Heights. History Extra has a podcast which includes the latest Charlotte Brontë biographer Claire Harman visiting the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Shut your Typeface! vlogs about Wuthering Heights. Books Speak Volumes explores the parallelisms between Jane Eyre and Harry Potter.


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