Friday, April 28, 2017

We have a couple of reviews of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, currently on stage at York Theatre Royal. From The Yorkshire Post:
Much of the meat of Brontë’s extraordinarily forward-thinking observations on gender inequality is retained and rendered into sparky, witty dialogue. Director Elizabeth Newman moves the action along at a sprightly pace, while the performances from the cast of eight, most of whom play two roles, are uniformly excellent.
The Guardian gives it 2 stars out of 5:
Branwell Brontë’s gift to posterity may be trifling in comparison to that of his sisters. But there’s a school of thought that his youngest sister, Anne, might never have written her masterpiece, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, without her brother’s bad example.
The Brontë Parsonage museum in Haworth currently contains an intriguing installation, curated by the poet Simon Armitage, that recreates the squalid chaos of the room in which Branwell drank himself to death. Yet on its publication in 1848, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was less shocking for its portrait of a dissolute alcoholic than the fact that a married woman – the enigmatic tenant of the title – should abscond and seek to support herself by independent means. Charlotte Brontë even suppressed further publication of the work after her sister’s death, dismissing the subject as “a mistake” and the novel “hardly desirable to preserve”. [...]
The great difficulty this poses to Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation is that such a crucial exchange, and the innermost thoughts it reveals, are extremely difficult to convey without falling into the precis trap, parsing the plot without gaining access to Anne Brontë’s deeply internalised style. And there seems to be a grave structural miscalculation in that the diary does not change hands until the end of the first half, at which point the heroine blurts out the key points of its contents, thus negating the impact of the revelations to follow.
Elizabeth Newman – artistic director of the Bolton Octagon where this co-production originated – has collaborated with McAndrew on some exceptionally imaginative Dickens adaptations in the past. However, in this instance she resorts to a stolid literalism that features a real, roaring fire and even a real border collie, which gives an intelligent performance but upstages the human actors’ attempts to establish a convincing illusion of rugged, rural life.
Phoebe Pryce provides a suitably flashing-eyed performance in the title role, yet the concision imposed by the adaptation does her few favours. For all the trauma she endures, it’s hard to escape the intimation that she may be suffering as much from an excess of piety as her husband is from an excess of drink. (Alfred Hickling)
The Wear Valley Advertiser interviews Phoebe Pryce, who plays Helen, and whose father was Patrick Brontë in To Walk Invisible.
Does having a famous father like Jonathan Pryce, who has just starred in a high-profile BBC programme about the Brontes, make it more difficult or easier for his daughter Phoebe to take on the stage role of Anne Brontë’s 1848 heroine Helen Graham?
“I honestly can’t tell you because all I know is that I’ve got nothing else to compare it to. I owe a great deal to my mum (actress Kate Fahy) and dad and I’ve got two brothers who aren’t actors, so one of us had to do it. I was fortunate enough to be taken along to see lots of wonderful things when I was growing up. I’m sure that’s the reason I’m doing this career, but harder or easier I don’t know. It’s never an easy business to get into to, but I’m just grateful for what I’m doing,” says Phoebe about being cast as the mysterious young widow who becomes The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, adapted from what is thought to be the UK’s first feminist novel.
“My dad had such a wonderful time doing To Walk Invisible that he was very touched when he found out I was doing this. Dad grew so fond of all the Bronte stories playing Patrick Bronte, particularly Anne, that he was glad to chat about my role. He’s been away a long time and we haven’t had too much time to discuss my rehearsals.” [...]
“It’s always exciting to get involved in projects that haven’t been kind of explored to what I would consider to be its full capacity. Obviously, Anne is the lesser-known of the sisters. I didn’t know the novel before and I’m very ashamed of that now because I think it’s so wonderful because Anne was an unsung hero. This is a story that was way ahead of its time and it’s a great honour to be part of it,” adds Phoebe.
Was she tempted to look at Tara Fitzgerald’s popular TV version of Helen in 1996?
“I actually didn’t look at any other version and most of the things I do try, if I haven’t seen an adaptation before, I tend to steer clear of other shows so that I can, hopefully, make something completely new. We can then make it our own as a cast and take that journey with the director... but I definitely will watch Tara Fitzgerald when I’m finished because I love period drama. It’s been a bit tortuous not sneaking a look at things like this,” Phoebe laughs.
She is surprised there have been so few productions of The Tenant and says: “I can only speak about our adaptation which I feel makes the script really sing, and is down to playwright Deborah McAndrew. Pieces from the novel that haven’t been included tend to enhance the stage show rather than take anything away.” [...]
Does Phoebe agree with the theory that Anne based Helen’s husband on her troubled brother Bramwell. “Yes, it’s not one of those things we’ve firmly fixed on, but you can see how Anne was strongly influenced by her surroundings and we know that one of the people affected by alcoholism was her brother. It’s impossible to think that she wasn’t influenced by him,” she says.
Another issue was that reprints of The Tenant were, at one stage, suppressed by Anne’s more famous sister Charlotte. “There was a lot of speculation and nobody could be quite sure why, but one of the things might have been that it was exposing Bramwell (sic) and Charlotte might not have wanted his memory to be spoiled, or possibly that she didn’t want her sister to have a successful novel. We really don’t know, but there are so many rumours online.” (Dave Horsley)
While The York Press has an interview with adapter Deborah McAndrew.
"I've always been a huge fan of Anne's writing, when the other two sisters [Charlotte and Emily] get all the attention, but 'Tenant' is a great story of a woman who's so mysterious and fascinating," says Deborah, whose new commission for the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, and York Theatre Royal is being presented in York until May 6 under the direction of Newman, the Octagon's artistic director.
"To my knowledge, there's only been one adaptation, by Lisa Evans, which I wasn't familiar with and didn't look at, but I knew the story would make a good piece of theatre, with a woman at the centre who's breaking all the rules, which wasn't acceptable to society. That really drew me to writing the adaptation." [...]
"There are great characters, but it was the politics of the book that attracted me: Anne was angry about women's position in society and the injustice of that," says Deborah.
"Helen Graham is a woman with no rights, who becomes the property of a man who's unworthy in every respect, and so it it's a story full of rage against the injustices of that time."
Deborah's adaptation obeys what she calls the first rule of drama: "Show, don't tell," she says. "There'll be no 'first person narrating' direct to the audience. The novel has a great sweep to it, so I've structured it to turn it into a play, rather than just replicating the book." (Charles Hutchinson)
UK Theatre Network reviews Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre as seen at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury.
Nadia Clifford, gives a powerful performance of emotional depth and insight in the title role.  The ensemble cast work their socks off to play a variety of roles, including a rather lovable dog who made me smile whenever I saw him.
The wooden set with a series of levels and ladders worked very well to represent the various locations throughout the show.  It’s certainly an exciting and innovative piece of theatre that captures your imagination, even if some of the devices appeared rather stagey.  The only few things I found jarred were Mr Rochester’s swearing when he first met Jane (not sure if that was in the book?!) and the decision to include Noel Coward’s song ‘Mad About the Boy’ and Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, which both seemed out of place. (Yvonne Delahaye)
The Telegraph & Argus gives more information about the proposal of the Brontë Society to take over the Haworth's Visitor Information Center:
Haworth Main Street trader Nikki Milner has previously promoted a petition calling for the centre in Haworth to remain open, arguing that the facility is of "paramount importance" to the village.
Reacting to the Brontë Society's plan she said: "From a personal point of view I can see how it could work well, and if it does allow the centre to be retained then that's great.
"It would be beneficial and I'm sure the village would work with the Society. I'd rather have this happen than lose it altogether.
"But I still think it's ludicrous that we're having to look at these different ways of keeping it open.
"I know the centre needs some improvements to make sure it's financially viable but Bradford Council should be ensuring it stays open anyway, instead of us having to consider these other options."
Worth Valley Ward councillor Rebecca Poulsen said that while she remained deeply unhappy with the original recommendation that Haworth's centre should close, she was pleased to see there is now an alternative way of saving it.
"I welcome the fact an organisation has come forward that has a vested interest in a successful tourism sector in the Worth Valley and Haworth," she said. (Miran Rahman)
We have lots of reviews connecting the film Lady Macbeth to something (anything) Brontë.
Yet the atmosphere in the mansion on the wild and windy moors is more Brontë than anything else, particularly when Katherine’s husband disappears to deal with a colliery disaster and she is left alone, bored and unsatisfied (Kate Muir in The Times)
Based on Nikolai Leskov’s novella Lady Macbeth Of Mtsensk, Lady Macbeth shows the influence of Madame Bovary, Wuthering Heights and Lady Chatterley’s Lover as it builds towards a ferocious climax. (Express)
Ultimately, Lady Macbeth makes Wuthering Heights resemble a Famous Five adventure where everyone ends up scoffing creamed scones and having a jolly good time. (John Byrne on RTÉ)
Despite the Shakespean title, the Eng Lit GCSE set text it most resembles is Wuthering Heights. Out on the wild and windy moors she rolls and falls into something very dark, a temper and jealousy too hot and too greedy.
In movie terms it is as though Oldroyd has taken the cast and locations of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights and given them a severe dressing down. (Michael Joyce in Eastern Daily Press)
Intriguingly, the film never explicitly comments on race (Sebastian and Anna are both black), but it’s an undeniable factor that leaves its own powerful impact and recalls Andrea Arnold’s similar approach in her 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights. (Matthew Turner on iNews)
At the very heart of why this strikingly austere and disquieting film – evocative of everything from the work of Michael Haneke to Andrea Arnold’s uncompromising 2011 version of Wuthering Heights – is the performance of Pugh in the lead role. (Ross Miller in The National)
This Lady Macbeth is reminiscent of Pascale Ferran’s Lady Chatterley (2006) and Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (2011) – in which Paul Hilton played Mr Earnshaw. There are similar ways in which racial difference is rendered visible and turned into a new source of tension. The house itself is a potent character. (Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian)
Theatre and opera director William Oldroyd’s feature debut is heavy on colour-coded atmosphere, from Katherine’s electric blue dress to the lush countryside she sometimes escapes to. As Sebastian, the violent servant she erupts with lust for, the part-Armenian Cosmo Jarvis (pictured below right with Pugh), is in this context a dark, forbidden other in the mansion’s pale world. This recalls Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights (2011), when the “Laskar” skin of Heathcliff allowed an interracial affair with Cathy. Race, as well as class and gender, also simmer in Lady Macbeth’s 19th century rustic England. (Nick Hasted in The Arts Desk)
The East Hampton Star reviews Sheila Kohler's book Once We Were Sisters.
Within close proximity Sheila and Maxine marry. Sheila has become pregnant upon losing her virginity, although the pregnancy does not come to term. Her husband, Michael, is a handsome American scholar. They live in Paris. But when the larger family travels through Europe, Michael chooses to remain apart. “In Rapallo Michael prefers to lie on his bed and read ‘Jane Eyre.’ My mother scoffs. ‘A man does not read in the morning,’ she says. Reading is considered an idle pastime, not to be indulged in too frequently. It therefore becomes an illicit source of pleasure.” (Laura Wells)
AwesomeGang interviews writer Pauline Wharton:
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring? I would certainly take one or two of the classics I read as a child and gave me my love of literature – ‘Pride and Prejudice’ ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights.’ And I also like ‘Dostoevsky’s ‘The Devils.’ I’m fond of A.J.Cronin’s ‘The Citadel’, because it was the first book I read that made me realise a novel didn’t need to be a thriller or a romance – it could just be about life! I also like Dorothy Sayers, and the short stories of Dorothy Whipple. A mixed bag, really.
The Daily Citizen's Athlete of the Week, Maria Wedig, names Wuthering Heights as her favourite book.

The Ringer wonders whether 'Chat-Fiction Apps [are] the New YA Novels'.
Caroline Renee Mills loves classic British literature. The 32-year-old freelance writer adores Thomas Hardy’s 1878 Victorian novel The Return of the Native, especially for the “dark, misunderstood, moody” character Eustacia Vye. She’s a fan of nearly anything written by the Brontë sisters, particularly Jane Eyre. And her all-time favorite is Daphne du Maurier, the British romantic novelist that published stories like The Birds, Rebecca, and The Jamaica Inn that were later made into Hitchcock films.
“She was a master of suspense,” Mills told me. “She was very good at being literary but also appealed to the popular audience.”
It is these qualities that Mills says she hopes to incorporate in her work — albeit in a format that would be wildly unfamiliar to Hardy, the Brontës, or du Maurier. Last month, she began writing for Hooked, an app that publishes fictional text message conversations. (Alyssa Bereznak)
A University of Birmingham lecturer writing for Birmingham Post thinks that 'the city needs to up its recognition of female icons in its public artwork' and complains about the fact that,
The university does possess a striking work by one of Britain's greatest sculptors, Sir Jacob Epstein - a portrait bust of obstetrics professor and medical pioneer Dame Hilda Lloyd.
But, unfortunately, like a character in a Brontë novel, she's mostly kept indoors in the medical school, accessible only by prior appointment. (Chris Game)
The Huddersfield Daily Examiner has selected 22 of the best restaurants to dine at in West Yorkshire including
Emily's by De Luca Boutique
The Brontë Birthplace, 72-74 Market Street, Bradford, BD13 3HF
This little place is well worth a visit if you are after an alternative setting, set in the birthplace of the Brontë Sisters, this restaurant offers award-winning botanically brewed vintage cordials together with fine foods. And is rated at an astonishing 5 star average on TripAdvisor by diners. (Arash Bahrami)
TravelWeekly (Australia) reports that,
[VisitBritain strategy director, Patricia Yates] strongly recommends Australians visit the Brontes’ Yorkshire or head to Edinburgh for the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter.
HarpersBazaar (Spain) has an article on the importance of all Brontë sisters (with several half-truths and inaccuracies). Jane Eyre is one of the five books every girl should read according to El Mexicano. Onedio (Turkey) features the Brontës. I Lay Reading posts about Wuthering Heights.

Finally, the Brontë Parsonage Museum website has shared the full conversation between Sally Wainwright and Ann Dinsdale which took place at Ilkley Literature Festival. Absolutely worth a listen (or two)!


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