Review - Villette at the West Yorkshire Playhouse - *Review by Richard Wilcocks* Charlotte Brontë’s *Villette*, which was recognised by knowledgeable readers in nineteenth century Brussels as a close parallel...
12 hours ago
The cast certainly didn't disappoint. Felix Hayes was not the typical love interest, but then neither was his character Rochester. He was everything the part called for; rude, uncouth and demanding, with a huge presence whenever his strode onto the stage.While The Sydney Morning Herald gives 4 stars out of 5 to the cinema-screened production.
And with just ten cast members there were several other stand-out performances. Simone Saunders slipped effortlessly between her parts as Bessie, Blanche Ingram and Diana Rivers, while Melanie Marshall was a captivatingly unusual (and tuneful!) Bertha. And it would be impossible not to mention Craig Edwards, who provided some much-needed light relief as Rochester's dog Pilot, launching himself about the stage, throwing himself to the ground, and using what looked like a short riding crop as a wagging tail to great comedic effect.
Unfortunately I couldn't warm to Madeleine Worrall's Jane. The Jane Eyre in my mind's eye has a calm poise and dignity. Madeleine rather scurried and hunkered about the stage, often appearing to cower up to Rochester and frequently losing control of her emotions.
And speaking of hunkering, a certain respect is due to all the cast for the amount of climbing they did. The set was a bizarre and somewhat ugly contraption made up of wooden ramps, platforms and numerous metal ladders, surrounded by white drapes. It looked a lot like we'd caught the Theatre Royal during a spot of decorating. The cast clambered around like monkeys for over three hours, travelling in endless circles up and down the steps. In fact, I rather feel like when I close my eyes to go to bed this evening I'll be seeing people climbing ladders in my dreams!
The music was something else, with an on-stage band serving up everything from Mad About the Boy when Jane first feels a twitch of feeling for Rochester (also a nod to his first wife Bertha's mental state) to Gnarls Barkley's Crazy. This was stunningly performed by Melanie Marshall, but to me still seemed to jar.[...]
All in all it was a thought-provoking performance, but as a die-hard Brontë fan I would have done a few things differently. (Jade Beecroft)
Cookson's Jane is played by Madeleine Worrall and her performance in idiomatic Yorkshire is full of detail and a broad spectrum of dramatic intensities. And Felix Hayes as Rochester has a masculine swagger and growling darkness mitigated by a roughness and freshness which suggests the young man behind the ogre-ish mask.Another review can be read on Theatre Girl Blog.
But this is very much an ensemble production and Cookson turns it into a rich and strange coming together of fringe-inflected theatre and a resonant projection of a classic.
The stage has a few high, wooden benches and long ladders from which a world of magic and realism (but with the latter predominating) are summoned up.
The movements of dogs and horses are abstractly but graphically delineated. Snatches of rock music and hymns are sung. There's plenty of chanting and swooping and improvisational group work but the overall effect is one of discipline and dramatic coherence.
Cookson creates a powerful simulacrum of Charlotte Brontë's world with a strong emphasis on the exotic torments of childhood. And her actors led by Worrall as Jane are convincingly childlike.
This Bristol Old Vic Jane Eyre is clearly the fruit of a passionate collective inner journey. Cookson and her cast have gone deep into the subtextual grandeurs and desolations of this extraordinary family romance but then come back to the rhythms and understatements of Brontë's very powerful dialogue. The effect is a bit of a revelation, like removing the varnish and dirt of an old painting. Jane Eyre seems new minted. (Peter Craven)
Emily Brontë gets a severe make-over in “The Moors,” a grimly funny new play by Jen Silverman that is currently enjoying its world premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre. This is one of those typical love-it-or-loathe productions of which the New Haven Theatre is famous (infamous?). It is here that I found myself once again asking, “If not at Yale Rep, then where?” [...]The Telegraph features the new season of TV series Happy Valley, created and directed by Sally Wainwright. Her next project is mentioned in passing:
The period recalls and simultaneously sends-up the novels of the Bronte sisters with wicked glee. In essence, Jen Silverman has produced her own warped version of “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre” with a dash of “Carrie”, a dollop of “Rebecca” and a spoonful of “American Idol” tossed in for good measure. So what’s it all about? Silverman has several ideas percolating here including the rise of female empowerment and the ugly temptation of fame. But it also seems to be about an embittered working class and their attempt to subvert and destroy their superiors. “The Moors” is obviously a play that could benefit from more than one viewing. (Tom Holehan)
Wainwright is now in pre-production for To Walk Invisible, a BBC film about the Brontë sisters and their relationship with their brother, which she wrote and will direct. Haworth, the Brontës’ home, is near where she grew up. (Jessamy Calkin)Fangoria has a Q&A with Mia Wasikowska about Crimson Peak.
Fngoria: Having done a few films based on period literature, was that something you’d been enthusiastic about before you took those roles?The Mary Sue reviews the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:
Mia Wasikowsk: Yeah, I really like those Gothic novels. You know, Guillermo puts everybody to shame when he starts talking about that literature, but I did like the Brontë sisters, and then I read Frankenstein and The Turn of the Screw on this film, and gained a wider appreciation of the genre. (Michael Gingold)
The oddest thing about P&P&Z, however, might be the visual approach to the material. Austen’s material always has a summery, pastoral quality, even when the narrative has tragic elements. Considering the best Austen films, there’s a vibrancy to the sad Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion that just works with her language, and there are moments when the film plays into that, but those moments are brief before clouds roll by and things look more like the Brontë sisters’ world than Austen’s. Why not tell a zombie story that comes to its climax in the daylight with flowers and sunshine? That would have at least been visually interesting for a zombie movie. (Lesley Coffin)The Independent reports on the latest goings-on in the 'world of books':
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Royal Society of Literature has asked some of its fellows to name their scariest literary moments.This columnist from The Hindu tells about his ideal vacation.
Hilary Mantel chooses the moment in Jane Eyre after Rochester asks her, “You don’t turn sick at the sight of blood?”
There’s so much to do. Maybe I’ll people-watch (definitely some form of communion). Or, when in a less sociable mood, maybe I’ll do Brontë-ish things like walk the moors with Bill Sikes’ bull terrier racing ahead. Ahead lies a cliff, a sheer drop, and when I look down, I’ll see an umbrella bouncing on the waves. The outside is black, the inside has a plaid pattern. I don’t know whose it is, but somebody must have had a black-and-plaid umbrella snatched away by these wild winds. And oh, a Cornish sunset. I don’t know what that’s like, but I imagine that will go well with this scenario. Think about it, this is a museum too. It’s Heathcliff’s museum. This is where he walked, that is where he spied on Cathy. What do you mean he’s not real? I first met him when I was in school, when no one knew what it meant to wuther. (Baradwaj Rangan)Not your regular vacation either - the possibility of staying in the real-life room with the window through which Lockwood saw Cathy's ghost. Recommended by Express among other Brontë-related things to do in Brontë country. Spinning a corn-free yarn posts about Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. Gloria's Blog reviews very positibely, All Hallows at Eyre Hall: The Breathtaking.
Goodbye, Margaret, the reluctant ‘legend’RIP.
Farewell to Margaret Forster, novelist, Evening Standard book reviewer — and all-round “legendary girl”, according to fellow Cumbrian Melvyn Bragg.
Paying tribute to Forster on Radio 4’s Front Row last night, Bragg recalled hearing of her first as a “legend. I lived 10 miles away and there was this legendary girl in Carlisle called Margaret Forster, there really was!”
Forster, though, who died yesterday aged 77, would have had no time for eulogies. Uninterested in publicity, she told Desert Island Discs in 1994 that, growing up, “I didn’t know such things as writers existed … I never thought of a writer as being a job or indeed of writers being alive. In some way, I thought all writers were dead — you know, your Dickens, your Austens, your Brontës.”