Bradford Set to Welcome the Tour de Yorkshire - Visit Bradford: The Tour de Yorkshire is heading your way Brontë Country! Stage 3 "The Yorkshire Terrier" On Sunday 30th April #TDY visitbradford.wordpre...
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Some of us can never have too much of the Brontës. But I understand if your response to another dose of costume drama on the moors is "Shoot me now." Reader, be strong! If you were dead, you'd be deprived of the chance to be proven so pleasantly wrong by To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters, a British TV movie airing on PBS's Masterpiece. [...] It's a bracing gale of a film, swirling with complicated sibling feelings of jealousy, dependency, and affection. In the plush wake of Downton Abbey and Victoria, it's surprisingly unromanticized and defiantly un-pretty. [...]Before To Walk Invisible on Sunday, at 7.30pm, KPBS has scheduled Wuthering Heights 2009.
Except for a jarring (and a bit cheesy) coda, To Walk Invisible immerses us in the Brontës' world, from the wide moors and lowering gray skies to the interiors shot in a claustrophobic replica of their house. Wainwright does an impeccable job of setting time and place, and of showing how small the Brontë sisters were expected to make themselves in order to fit women's shrunken place in society. Wainwright's script is subtler than to proclaim the Brontës as "feminists ahead of their time." The naturalism of the production and performances give us the Brontës as feminists in their time, frustrated at being regarded as inferior by a quirk of birth, desiring agency over their own destiny. [...]
A little of Branwell goes a long way. This has nothing to do with actor Adam Nagaitis, whose Branwell has an interesting tight-lipped, squinty John Lennon nastiness about him. It's simply that the story of his sisters proves so absorbing that we come to resent Branwell's intrusions, as he badgers his father for booze money, shivers on his chamber pot, and hallucinates about his mistress.
Those interruptions do serve a starker purpose. How many mediocre male artists still command more attention than more talented women? Just as he must have in life, Branwell takes up more than his share of space in To Walk Invisible. There's a brief but potent scene late in the film in which Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, despite having achieved success (however anonymous) beyond what Branwell ever could, get on their hands and knees to clean up the vomit and detritus of their brother's latest opium binge. How heartbreaking it is to see the Brontë sisters being manspread out of their own movie. (Joyce Millman)
Polly Teale read the novel for the first time as a teenager, and in revisiting it she says she "found, not the horror story I remembered, but a psychological drama of the most powerful kind." The novel is full of the dramatic, fanciful, and tragic, and is fertile ground for juicy adaptations to film and stage, but Teale could not get past these questions: "Why...did [Brontë] invent a madwoman locked in an attic to torment her heroine? Why is Jane Eyre, a supremely rational young woman, haunted by a vengeful she-devil? Why do these two women exist in the same story?"Back to where it all began but still connected to the broadcast of To Walk Invisible in the US, Novel Destinations suggests '5 Must-Do Pastimes in Brontë Country'.
Teale sets out to answer these questions in her 1997 adaptation, and the effects are often fresh and thought-provoking. Jane Eyre purists (if there is such a thing) [you bet there is!] might find this adaptation a bit disappointing. It's hard to say exactly why, all of the elements are there, but Teale's new focus has the effect of making all of the other parts unfocused. The horror and the mystery, the tension and the romance of Jane Eyre are somehow shifted, pushed aside to make room for the examination of these two female opposites-the rational and the madwoman-that Teale concludes, may not actually be so diametrically opposed after all. Perhaps they are one and the same. But, if some purists end up disappointed, then those who are looking for different approaches to classics, making them more relevant to modern modes of thinking, will be very pleased by this production.
From the moment you enter the theatre and see the set design by Kris Stone, you are pleasantly puzzled. Is this Jane Eyre? Where is the moor? Where is the grand old country house? The set is interestingly modern, like a city loft space or a fancy steakhouse. Ramps zig-zag up to a landing with a small room-sized box on top. A single bare lightbulb hangs from the rafters, and there is a tiny window and one door that locks. The room is painted red.
Suddenly, music begins to move the tale forward. A capella voices are joined by box-drums and guitar. Finally, Young Jane enters wearing her drab dress, and we think, "Ah, here's the Jane we know," but, then she begins playing with a beautiful girl wearing a frilly, bright orange shift. You wonder, "Does this happen in the book?" The girls seem connected, they giggle together, grasp at one another, sometimes they move in perfect unison. Sometimes the girl in orange breaks out in what would be considered wild undulations by the standards of the day-again we puzzle: "Is this Jane Eyre?"
But then cousin John enters, and the story everyone knows begins. Novel-to-stage adaptations can get bogged down in exposition while simultaneously not spending enough time on character shaping moments. Teale's adaptation runs into this conundrum. The play often lacked tension, ticking off events as if they were on a "to do" list. Sometimes the pacing was so quick that we had no time to ruminate on things, and it created the effect of being told a story, second-hand, by someone "who was there," rather than seeing it unfold yourself. But, that effect is not necessarily a bad thing when you are deconstructing something so enduring, and giving it a new spin. Some things were lost, but a lot is gained.
The horror-story tension of the original is absent, primarily because in Teale's version, the madwoman is never a mystery. The horror in this story is no longer the "things that go bump in the night"; it is the idea of being locked away for saying what you think, and for sleeping with whomever you want. Bertha is always there. First trapped in the little red room, staring at the audience. She is quiet for long periods until we almost forget about her, and then she bursts forward again. Teale is not hiding her away to be a surprise at the end. She keeps her in full view for the entire first act. As Jane begins to actually feel like Rochester's equal, the madwoman (who may actually be Jane) begins to move more freely on the stage. She literally lights up candle after candle, as Jane lights figurative candles, making the conflagration inevitable.
Refreshing and cleverly staged by KJ Sanchez (Abby Rowold)
Watching the drama To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters is likely to cause literary wanderlust. (It airs Sunday, March 26, on PBS-Masterpiece.) The backdrop is the Yorkshire village of Haworth and the surrounding moors, a dramatically scenic landscape that helped inspire the novelist sisters’ page-turners Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Here are five things for bibliophiles to do in Brontë Country.France Info celebrates the fact that for the first time a woman has been included in the syllabus for the Baccalauréat exams (and about time!) and goes on to list women writers such as the Brontës.
Visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Home to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, along with their brother Branwell, was a Georgian parsonage in Haworth, where their father, Patrick, was appointed curate in 1820. Don’t miss the ink-stained table in the dining room, where the novelists gathered in the evenings to read aloud from their works-in-progress and brainstorm plot ideas. A replica of the c. 1800s parsonage, along with a side street and neighboring buildings, was created on a set outside of Haworth. www.bronte.org.uk
Ramble on the moors. Venture into Wuthering Heights territory as you follow in the sisters’ footsteps across the wind-swept moorland around Haworth. A 2.5-mile walk from town leads to the Brontës’ favorite destination, “the meeting of the waters.” There, Emily would recline on a slab of stone, today dubbed the “Brontë chair,” to play with tadpoles in the water. Continue on another mile to reach the stone ruins of an isolated farm known as Top Withens, credited as being the setting of Heathcliff’s domain in Wuthering Heights.
Have a pint at the Black Bull. At the top of a steep cobblestone street in the center of Haworth is the cozy, 300-year-old watering hole where wayward Branwell Brontë frequently whiled away the hours. Though a talented painter and poet, he was unable to hold a steady job and increasingly found solace in alcohol and opium. In an alcove up the stairwell, his favorite chair has been given pride of place.
Take the Passionate Brontës Tour. Stroll along Haworth’s historic cobbled streets and hear all about the village’s most famous family. Guides use the Brontës’ own letters, poems, and stories to illuminate their literary achievements, shed light on their personal passions and tragedies, and reveal what life was like in this tiny Yorkshire town during their day. www.brontewalks.co.uk
Read a book in the Brontë Meadow. Break out the dog-eared copy of your favorite Brontë novel that you toted along and read a passage or two. Adjacent to the museum, the Brontë Meadow has gorgeous views of the countryside and is a perfect introduction to the novelists’ territory, especially if you don’t have time for a lengthy walk on the moors.