Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Royal Society of Literature has announced the results of the survey on the nation’s favourite second novel. Predictably, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is at the top, but Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is number 3, which is wonderful and well-deserved.

It seems to be a very propitious time for the novel, as The Stage reviews the production at The Octagon Theatre, Bolton, summing it up as 'A sure-footed adaptation that rises above its innate soapiness thanks to a brilliant central performance' and giving it 4 stars out of 5.
Youngest Brontë sister Anne is considered by many these days as a grittier and more radical writer than her older siblings. In the second of her two novels, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne painted a wholly unvarnished and – unlike Charlotte and Emily – completely unromanticised picture of the flawed menfolk of her era and the women left wounded in their wake.
This good-looking and atmospheric Octagon co-production succeeds by taking Brontë’s central message of early feminism and running with it.
Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation artfully filters and tweaks Brontë’s time-shifting narrative – which unfurls via letters in the novel – revealing the backstory of the titular hall’s mysterious occupant and the plot’s twists and turns in a satisfyingly well-paced way.
Elizabeth Newman’s assuredly modulated direction finds wry humour early on in the tittle tattle of the Markham family’s small-town concerns but lays on the gothic foreboding in spades when required, aided by Ben Occhipinti’s unnerving soundscape of ever-present wind and Johanna Town’s effective lighting.
Things take a soapy turn in the overlong and, at times, overwrought second half. This is not helped by the slightly two-dimensional nature of Marc Small’s drunkard of a husband. But Phoebe Pryce’s near-perfect performance, as the single-minded and ahead of her time Helen, rises above this, providing the believable emotional through-line that the play demands.
Her slow-burning, tentative romance with Michael Peavoy’s compelling, brooding Gilbert is what powers the story to its well-earned conclusion. It manages to deliver a romantic payoff while still honouring Brontë’s assertion that a woman should be in control of her own destiny. (Chris Bartlett)
Manchester Evening News gives it 4 stars out of 5 too.
I always say you can't beat a bit of BroThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
ntë – and that is just what is on offer at the Octagon in Bolton with their latest production,
In fact it is a great big dollop of Bronte as this period drama transports the audience across the Pennines, back to 19 Century Yorkshire. [...]
The nine-strong cast is led by Phoebe Pryce as Helen and Michael Peavoy as Markham with Octagon regular Colin Connor plus Natasha Davidson, Nicole Lecky, Marc Small, Philip Starnier and Susan Twist with, on our visit, Adam Crompton as Little Arthur. Oh, and there is a four-legged star too who, despite a flawless performance, unfortunately, does not seem to get a credit.
Dealing with issues like alcoholism and domestic abuse the work, first published almost 170 years ago, still has resonance today and, as usual, the Octagon cast deliver a throughout professional performance.
As well as the lead characters, Colin Connor's Reverend Millward and Susan Twist's Mrs Markham are well worthy of mention.
Also the way the Octagon manages to use the same limited stage space to transport the audience around different locations and periods in the characters' lives with just a few prop changes is remarkable. [...]
That bleakness is certainly evident in the Octagon production but there are also moments of comedy, which the audience thoroughly enjoyed. (Steve Howarth)
On Twitter, artist Clare Twomey shares a couple of pictures of the start of her Wuthering Heights project. On Facebook, the Brontë Parsonage Museum mentions the beginning of the project too. Earlier today on BBC Radio Leeds, Liz Green interviewed Clare Twomey about it (about 1h50m into the programme).

Bradenton Herald quotes actress Diane Lane reminiscing about her acting career.
Lane’s film career began with a high-profile starring role in “A Little Romance” in 1979. It was directed by George Roy Hill, who had previously directed “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Among her co-stars was Laurence Olivier. Even as a 13-year-old she knew enough about Olivier to be intimidated.
“I was quite afraid,” she said. “I had seen as much of his work as I could, on film. I watched his ‘Hamlet,’ I watched ‘Rebecca,’ ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘Marathon Man.’ I watched the one he did with Marilyn Monroe (‘The Prince and the Showgirl’).” (Marty Clear)
PopSugar mentions Wuthering Heights in an article on 'How to Get Back to "Feeling Yourself" After Becoming a Mom'.
In Wuthering Heights, Catherine Linton goes mad from pregnancy — the dissonance between who she wanted to be and who she has become overtakes her mind. Staring in a mirror, she is unable to recognize her own reflection. "Don't you see that face?" she asks.
Even after the mirror is covered, she cries out to Nelly Dean, the main narrator, "Who is it? I hope it will not come out when you are gone! Oh! Nelly, the room is haunted! I'm afraid of being alone."
Both literally and metaphorically, Cathy is split in two. After giving birth, Cathy dies. A body divided against herself, she could not survive. Some days, I felt as if I too had suffered a death, as if a self or an idea of a self was gone forever. (Lyz Lenz)
El Periódico Extremadura (Spain) describes a very cold place as 'worthy of a Brontë sisters' novel'. El Punt Avui (Spain) has a group of booksellers recommend books and one of them suggests Jane Eyre. Inspired by the mention in Jane EyreTwo-Bit Tart shares a recipe for a 'modern seed cake'. The Victorianist has an interesting discussion on the 'representations of madness in Charlotte Brontë's novels and the BBC drama To Walk Invisible'.

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