Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Younger Theatre gives 4 out of 5 stars to the stage production of Wuthering Heights at the Royal Exchange, Manchester.
The set at the Royal Exchange is in keeping with the contemporary theme this venue loves to adopt production after production, but the addition of Cecile Tremolieres period-accurate costume, helps to establish this production of Wuthering Heights as a cut above the rest. The production starts with the introduction of musicians Sophie Galpin and Becky Wilkie who add an extra dimension to this show, a hidden depth to the story that could only be accessed with dulcet folk tones and heavy electric guitar. This production would sorely miss their presence had they not been there. [...]
The dynamic between Heathcliff and Cathy develops throughout the course of the play with the portrayal of youth and the incorruptibility of these characters played beautifully and innocently by Alex Austin and Rakhee Sharma. The casting choice of Austin wasn’t immediately obvious to me, but as the play progressed and you see the steady decline of Heathcliff’s sanity, it became abundantly clear to me that Austin is such an incredibly capable actor who can, and indeed will, carry this show for the entirety of its run.
Another character who carries this show from beginning to end is Nelly, played by Samantha Power. The powerful yet reserved nature Power exudes is moving. The heartache and turmoil she faces is presented in such a way that you can’t take your eyes from her on stage, even when she is a minor character in the scene. I was unsure of the introduction of the rest of the cast, comprising of Dean Fagan and Rhiannon Clements, and was fearful they would be lost in the supremacy of this story, but in fact they add a lightness to the production that I think was lacking until their characters were introduced.
There are small elements that seemed to distract from the play, but these are only minor. The use of the Yorkshire accent compliments the story well, and I am glad the creatives chose to keep it. At times, however, some of the more important scenes were lost due to the shape of the space. During scenes such as Cathy’s meeting with Heathcliff, much of the dialogue was inaudible from Rakhee Sharma when she was facing away from the audience. It was a shame as the production as a whole is beautifully remarkable and I urge anyone and everyone to go and see it, especially fans of the original story. I hope you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was. (Emily Bancroft)
About Manchester also gives it 4 stars out of 5:
The Royal Exchange Theatre layout is used to the full and the setting very soon has you transported to the wilderness of the Yorkshire Moors. From the beginning of the play when the actors are playing children to the end of the play, where all the actors have been seamlessly transformed into the serious, tortured and well-healed adults right before your eyes, the acting is brilliantly believable. The chemistry worked well between Heathcliffe [sic] (Alex Austin), Cathy (Rakhee Sharma) and Hindley (Gurjeet Singh) and I felt so desperately sad for Isabella (Rhiannon Clements) ending up completely trapped for loving such a cruel man. The setting has a touch of Shakespeare about it and the music really helped to create the atmosphere, build the mood and tell the story.
For the fainthearted, you need to be prepared for some full-on male nudity early in the play as Heathcliffe (sic) takes a bath and the graphic theme of birds and blood, especially how a cuckoo infiltrate and ultimately takes over a nest, did make me wince a little in parts.
It was great to hear so many northern accents in one place. Heathcliffe was the only one who had a southern accent and I am not sure if this was deliberate to set him aside even more than he already was. It was rather long but I was completely reeled in. Similarly to the way the actors transform, the story itself is witty and funny in the first half, especially Linton (Dean Fagen), and soon twists into a deliciously dark piece. I am not usually too much of an emotional person so I did find myself chuckling at first then there were several parts where I had a great big lump in my throat, especially as the characters ascended into heaven, particularly Earnshaw (David Crellin), the father, as this was beautifully done.
I did feel a little dizzy with all the running around the stage but that just added to the intensity when Heathcliffe finally found Cathy. I found I was holding my breath in the scenes where Cathy goes mad, especially as a little while ago, this talented actress was making us believe she was a young carefree girl running about the moors. She was soon put out of her misery, though, and I must say, she was the happiest and most contented dead person I think I have ever seen.
We know there is a very fine line between love and hate but the bitterness becomes more visible the further we are taken into the play. I felt very sorry for poor Linton watching his wife love another man so fiercely. Even at the very end, I wanted to give it a standing ovation but couldn’t quite bring myself as I thought I might cry.
I can highly recommend this is a new adaptation before it closes on the 7th March. (Amanda Padbury)
Another take on Wuthering Heights reviewed: the Tip Top production in Chester (which unfortunately closed on February 1st). We Are Chester gives it 5 stars.
The consensus amongst those audience members that we spoke to after the show seemed to be that this was a mesmerising and gripping performance and one that we were so glad we had experienced. Once again, Tip Top transported us from the busy streets of bustling Chester to a gothic supernatural world revolving around the doomed Heathcliff and tormented Cathy. [...]
And would it be wrong to mention here that our immersion in the life and loves of those living by the unforgiving moors of Yorkshire was interspersed with an inner soundtrack of another British icon, Kate Bush. Yes, she whose haunting voice breathed new life into this ghostly tale and stole our hearts back in the heady days of the seventies.
Anyway, that’s enough self-indulgent reminiscing for now. The talented team behind Tip Top made full use of the intimate Forum Studio Theatre for this production, with an immersive performance which saw the tragic drama happening just feet away from us and often even closer.
The set was splendidly gothic, from the dark environs of Wuthering Heights itself placed in contrast next to the elegance of Thrushcross Grange nearby. The moors were skilfully depicted above, with an ivy-clad and suitably gothic eyrie on which Emily Brontë (Katie Deyes) sat to gaze down upon the wonder of her creations, with a heavy emphasis on the shade rather than the light.
Indeed, it was a clever move by director Laura Coard to make Brontë our narrator in this adaptation, complete with notebook and pen and the ability to break through the fourth wall and address us, the audience. There were a number of truly poignant moments where Emily moved in and out of the action, observing and seemingly worrying about the dark forces that had been created by her own hand.
There was a perfectly haunting moment where Cathy (Sophie Wolstencroft) appeared as a ghostly vision in a flowing white dress. And our hearts were in our mouths as we witnessed the wide-ranging devastation that unfolded in this epic tale of destructive love and revenge. (Angela Ferguson)
The Nerd Daily reviews the novel The Garden of Bewitchment by Catherine Cavendish.
It all starts with tension between sisters. Identical twins Evelyn and Claire might share the same physical characteristics, but they exist in almost two completely different worlds. Evelyn is pragmatic and responsible, Claire unkempt and somewhat unhinged, infatuated with Branwell Brontë, who although deceased is very real in Claire’s mind—and her heart. The one thing the sisters do share: Calladocia.
Like the Brontë sisters, the Wainwrights are writing a novel about Calladocia, a universe of their own creation. (Seven Jane)
This contributor to The New York Review of Books describes her early reading:
Literature, when I was young, was dead, white, and mostly male. It was unusual for even the nerdiest kids of my generation to know otherwise; in school, we’d been given Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Huxley, Hemingway, Thoreau, Stephen Crane, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allen Poe, et cetera, with a few dips beyond the pale into Sylvia Plath or the Brontës, who—albeit also dead and white—shocked us all by daring to be female. Those of us who received on our birthdays a dutiful fistful of gift certificates to mall bookstores used them to stock up on the foundational texts, the Whitmans, Flauberts, and Henry Jameses of the world, until we felt more or less comfortable swimming in the shallows of the canon. (Lauren Groff)
On the west coast, Los Angeles Review of Books discusses Amina Cain’s novel Indelicacy.
But stillness and meditation are often transgressive acts in their break from the relentless imperatives of industry; think of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” a Wall Street clerk continually declaring, “I would prefer not to.” That stillness is also often received as a threat. In Dogville, Kidman’s character is relentlessly vilified by people hungry to exploit her to their own material and emotional advantage. Or consider the character Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, married and carried from the Caribbean by Mr. Rochester then locked raving in an attic for the rest of her life. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys rewrites the story from the madwoman’s perspective and captures how she was driven to her seclusion by an oppressive patriarchal structure that stripped her of a national identity and confined her to prison. In both Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre, this character gets her revenge. So does Kidman’s character in Dogville. (Nathan Scott McNamara)
The Christian Science Monitor reviews Leila Aboulela’s new novel Bird Summons but suggests reading other works by the same author first:
Bird Summons” offers plenty of Aboulela’s lyrical writing and empathy, but a better place to start would be either “The Translator,” a retelling of Jane Eyre with a Muslim heroine, or the award-winning “Lyrics Alley.” (Yvonne Zipp)
Outlook Traveller (India) goes on a trek through the Singalia Ridge.
Our camping ground for the first day—a mild ascent—was Deonangali Dhap, located beside a marsh. A sprawling heath dotted with hedges and thickets, it was enveloped in mist that wrought an ominous desolation. It reminded me of the tormenting allure of Wuthering Heights. (Ashis Ghatak)
The Stranger recommends going to see the Seattle production of The Moors this weekend. Brussels Brontë Blog reports on a recent talk by Ana Gauthier during which she 'managed to connect the Brontës with Star Trek and Harry Potter in an entertaining presentation on the Brontës and fanfiction'.

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