Saturday, February 15, 2020

More reviews of Wuthering Heights at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. Manchester Evening News gives it 3 stars out of 5.
Shanahan has done away with the narration through Lockwood and Nelly Dean as in the novel, with the play opening at the moment Earnshaw discovers the wild Heathcliff and brings him home.
The script has been given a modern update, with the characters using terms like 'p**s off' and 's**t' yet never straying away from the original plot.
In the first half of the play Cécile Trémolières’ set transports the audience to the Yorkshire Moors crawling with nature and wildlife, rain and snow. But during the second half, when the characters turn into adults, the moors become barren and dead. The lighting above seems to close in on the characters.
When Emily Brontë's words enter the show they are supported by ethereal music performed by musicians Sophie Galpin and Becky Wilkie. The duo are stood on stage for the entirety of the show and the music is a highlight of the evening, breathing life into the moors as Cathy and Heathcliff frolic and fall in love. [...]
The extreme emotions do provide some moments of humour. At one point Edgar Linton even acknowledges he's a bit posh while Isabella's utter desperation to come across a 'man' in the deserted moors results in chuckles from the audience.
Alex Austin masters the strangeness of Heathcliff, his expressions looking other-wordly, while Rakhee Sharma is captivating as the wild Cathy.
Rhiannon Clements also should get a mention for her portrayal of Isabella, bringing some humour to the show.
The second half is quite unsettling and hard to watch as Cathy's mental health deteriorates while Heathcliff runs circles around her.
Some parts of the production are a little jarring.
At the end of the first half the moors seem to come alive with four members of the cast dancing on the periphery, and every time a character died they clamber up a bare tree to one side of the stage. It's somewhat cheesy.
The Royal Exchange delivered in bringing a version of Wuthering Heights never seen before, without deriving too far away from the plot.
However, some Brontë purists might be turned off by some of the modern elements introduced to the story. (Alexandra Rucki)
From Mancunian Matters:
The new production of Wuthering Heights at the Royal Exchange accurately captures the themes of the story. Departing from the frame narrative of the book, the script is well paced, with key scenes intelligently condensed down. Between this are interspersed more abstract moments, making inventive use of music, lighting, and chorus work to highlight the passage of time, or a significant plot point.
Although it’s a strong attempt to capture the intensity of the famous lovers’ bond, the dialogue feels over-written at times. Some lines are a little too on the nose, with characters saying explicitly what they are feeling in transitional scenes rather than allowing those emotions to reveal themselves more naturally.
Live music is used excellently throughout the performance. Musicians Sophie Galpin and Becky Wilkie play a mixture of cutting electric guitar, drum machines, and close harmonies reminiscent of The Unthanks. They provide an excellent backdrop to the cast and story.
For themselves, the cast are strong, well-drilled, and gel effectively together as an ensemble.
Samantha Power’s Nelly provides a strong moral spine to the seemingly lawless world of the story, her fierce repudiations and dutiful, honest love coming across well. Of all the cast, she changes the least, a stalwart constant throughout the chaos and degradation around her.
Earnshaw, the morally upright patriarch at the start of the story, is brought to life with vigour by David Crellin. He moves well between the doting and the disappointed father, one scene between him and Hindley standing out. Crellin shows us effectively the transition from charitable patron to morally compromised father.
In contrast, Gurjeet Singh’s Hindley exhibits excellently the fall of a man who could never quite be enough. Singh manages to show with nuance and intelligence the powerlessness of Hindley as he desperately seeks approval from any quarter. For all his intimidation, bullying, and hateful gloating, as well as the play’s most gruesome moment, he never exudes the aura of darkness and menace reserved for his nemesis.
Dean Fagen’s Edgar meanwhile, is as irritatingly compliant and affable as he could be. He communicates well the sort of man who is sensitive, sweet, attentive, kind, and completely sexless. Fagen’s performance sits comfortably amongst the more dominant characters that surround him. Edgar’s impotent entitlement is well realised here, though can at times be lost in the script playing Edgar’s submissive nature for laughs.
Rhiannon Clements takes on both Frances, Hindley’s wife, and the ill-fated Isabella. It was disconcerting to see Isabella’s desperation to find a husband played more in the style of Bridget Jones. That said, the initial levity of Clements’ performance lends more weight to Isabella’s heartbreak. From wide-eyed fawning, Clements shows us the birth of a survivor. [...]
Cathy, played by Rakhee Sharma, depicts the innocent, unworldly girl with great physicality and verve. She is the loquacious foil to her mute companion, jumping, dancing, and shouting. The shift from free, wild Cathy to the prim and dressed-up lady is compelling. Sharma does an excellent job of constraining and controlling her movement, becoming increasingly static and physically passive as Cathy settles into her comfortable, middle-class life.
However, of all the dialogue, Cathy’s is that which most often seems over-written, and at times Sharma seems to struggle with it a little. Nonetheless, she gives a strong performance, showing us at once Cathy’s vulnerability and her ferocity.
And so Heathcliff. Snarling, hissing, panting Heathcliff. Alex Austin takes on the role, portraying the innocent foundling turned monster with great range. Far from the brooding, gothic interpretation we are accustomed to, we begin with a frightened boy. Heathcliff is wild, but innocently so. Although this works conceptually, it somehow just doesn’t seem to sit right. Austin acts well, but at times the wildness and childishness appear forced.
Austin really comes into his own after Heathcliff’s transformation. From wide-eyed boy and abused teenager, we finally get Heathcliff the man, although not the brooding Byronic hero we are used to. In a voice and mannerism that seem to channel the Kray Twins more than Manfred, Austin fairly exudes menace. [...]
The production has a strong ensemble cast, and has been directed and written in a way which sensitively reimagines the story. It is always difficult to condense a long and complex story down, and it is managed well. The production is a little overdone sometimes, but at its heart is an earnest and intelligently realised attempt to recapture the vision of Emily Brontë. (Kit Roberts)
From I Love Manchester:
The new production doesn’t shy away from the story’s violence, nor from the toxicity of Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship. What’s more, it makes them equally complicit, not just in their own misery but in the other characters’ too.
Embracing the tale in all its harsh inhospitability, from the landscape to the conduct of the characters themselves, Andrew Sheridan’s script mostly focuses on the first half of Brontë's novel and is wound through with repetitions and echoed refrains.
Joseph, the family’s cantankerous and pious manservant, is gone – as is Mr. Lockwood, who functions well in Brontë’s original tale in his role of trusty narrator alongside housekeeper Nelly Dean.
Edgar Linton is wetter than ever, while his sister Isabella serves to offer us some comic relief amidst Cathy and Heathcliff’s intense and brutal showdowns. The Lintons’ characters are diminished somewhat, veering into jester-like territory in places.A haunting, misty set from Cécile Trémolières puts the wild and untameable landscape centre stage, allowing the destructive and consoling powers of the wilderness to be just as much a part of the play as the characters themselves.Alexandra Faye Braithwaite’s music provides a powerful folk-rock soundtrack that swells and surges, further intensifying the drama.Altogether, between its look and feel and the incessant talk of death, the show feels somewhat other-worldly.Even more so in its second act, when flora and fauna are stripped away to expose a barren landscape of boulders and arid earth as relationships turn sour and Cathy enters into a fatal mania.Wuthering Heights is generally known as a classic tragic love story, but this production really opens the door to the problematic relationship at its heart.Rakhee Sharma’s impassioned and unruly Cathy manages to be both heartless and tender, whilst Alex Austin is truly bewitching in the role of Heathcliff.Powerful, wild and intense, this heartbreaking portrayal of tortuous love has the power to draw tears from even the most stoic observer. (Georgina Pellant)
Morning Star gives it 2 out of 5 stars:
What a great time to stage a theatrical version of Wuthering Heights, with Storm Ciara and her running-mate Dennis creating havoc.
Sadly, though, their fierce winds and torrential downpours create more passion and fear than this somewhat disappointing production of Emily Brontë’s classic novel.
It all starts so well, with the excellent Sophie Galpin and Becky Wilkie playing haunting guitar, synth drums and keyboard, evoking the perfect eerie and brooding soundscape for the disaster that is about to unfold.
Yet though the early scenes between the boisterous Cathy and Heathcliff work reasonably well, the attempt to lighten the mood with some comedy is misguided.
The relationship between the wild moors and the corresponding intensity of Cathy (Rakhee Sharma) and Heathcliff (Alex Austin) is at the heart of the story and, although Cecile Tremolieres’s set design and Zoe Spurr’s lighting create an evocative moorland, the essential spark between the two lovers is missing – it is hard to imagine that their love runs so deep that only death can release them.
The novel’s narrative of raw, unfettered emotion, passion, torment and a love so intense it becomes destructive is its very essence and has to be the basis of any adaptation.
But tossing in the odd modern parlance and a few fucks at the expense of the story’s heart doesn’t make it more relevant today. It merely loses its soul.
David Crellan as Earnshaw and Rhiannon Clements as Isabella put in creditable performances and the addition of the few snippets from Brontë’s beautiful poetry works well. But ultimately it’s down to the two wonderful musicians to save the day.
Live Art Alive and Curtain Talk also post about this production.

More theatre, as Hartford Courant is looking forward to a local stage production of Jane Eyre:
“This is Jane telling her own story."
That’s how Elizabeth Williamson sums up her new stage version of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel “Jane Eyre," at Hartford Stage through March 14. Jane’s voice was essential to how Williamson saw the story. “I read all the existing adaptations, and they were not what I wanted to do.” So she created her own adaptation, and is also directing it.
Williamson, who has distinguished herself not only as a director (helming four shows in the last four seasons) but as a dramaturg, has also won praise for how well she works with ensemble casts. To stage “Jane Eyre,” Williamson brought in some of the best ensemble players she knows. But she also concentrated on “Jane’s voice taking us through her own life. ... I think this is maybe the first novel where a young woman is talking directly to the audience," the playwright/director says. “This novel is such a feminist classic.”
She describes the results as “kind of a one-woman show with an ensemble show happening around it.”
The Courant talked to four actors who are bringing Elizabeth Williamson’s vision of Charlotte Brontë’s story to life.
For Helen Sadler, the British actress who plays Jane, the play is "storytelling. It’s Jane’s memory, her perspective as she is when writing her autobiography 10 years after the events. Her memories take over, drag her back. The ensemble has this amazing role. They come into Jane’s consciousness, come alive, drag her back into the memories, then drop out again.
“Romance is a very powerful part of her story, but the focus is also on her autonomy, her vision of her own life and what she wants her life to be like. There’s this line from the novel: ‘Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel.’ ...
“We’re realizing, as we do this, how contemporary it is, how shocking it was at the time. It’s very rebellious that a woman wouldn’t be satisfied with her lot in life.”
“We’re being faithful to the spirit of the novel, but making it active for an audience. It’s active and exciting and contemporary, yet really faithful and traditional.”
When he’s told Elizabeth Williamson’s one-woman-show/ensemble show theory, Chandler Williams — playing the smoldering Rochester in the play — instinctively notes that, as an actor, he sees mainly his own role. This is my take on it, but it really feels to me like Jane and Rochester’s story. They are in their own world. The ensemble revolves around them.
'Jane Eyre’ is not Nicholas Nickleby. Charlotte Brontë is not Charles Dickens. This is not a panoply of British social customs. It’s the story of these two people."
Williams was part of the ensemble cast of Williamson’s production of “Cloud 9." “Elizabeth and I have known each other since we were 18. I remember her reading torrid Victorian novels like ‘Jane Eyre’ at school. She’s talked about doing this for years. What she’s done with this play is heighten the storytelling with drama. Otherwise, what’s the point? Why put it on the stage? This is not an intellectualization of the book at all. This is more about taking those scenes and making a real play out of them.” (Christopher Arnott) (Read more)
What's on Stage interviews CEO of Northern Broadsides theatre company Laurie Sansom.
4) Who helped you during the early part of your career?[...] Alan Ayckbourn then became a friend and mentor when he asked me to be his associate director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. I learnt so much from his humility, generosity and light touch as an artistic director. In some ways we work very differently, but what we share is a love and respect for actors and writers. He is able to unlock a moment with the simplest of notes, miraculously transforming a scene. But it was his faith in my increasingly ambitious ideas that really allowed me to discover what kind of artist I wanted to be. He gave me free rein to create a version of Charlotte Brontë's Villette with Frantic Assembly and a season of new musicals performed by one company, always encouraging me to follow a creative idea through to its final conclusion. (Daniel Perks)
Sharon Wright writes about her book The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria Met Patrick on History Hit.
Maria Branwell Brontë is remembered barely at all. Even the information boards at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth refer to her as “a shadowy figure”.
As 2020 marks the birth of Maria’s last baby – Anne Brontë in 1820 – it brings to a close the 5-year Brontë bicentenary also marking the births of Charlotte in 1816, Branwell in 1817 and Emily in 1818, along with 2019 devoted to the work of Patrick as curate of Haworth.
Mrs Brontë is conspicuous by her absence.
Yet readers of ‘Agnes Grey’, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Shirley’, ‘Villette’, ‘The Professor’ and the Brontë poetry really should know about the enigmatic, influential mother of genius.
It was her love story that started it all.
The Herald (Scotland) mentions Brita Granstrom and Mick Manning's graphic novel The Brontës. Children of the Moors in passing.
Their first book was “The World is Full of Babies,” written long before they had their own, Granstrom laughs. Over time they have covered everything from the Romans to human anatomy, Darwin to the Brontës – Manning himself grew up in Haworth. (Sarah Urwin Jones)
The Guardian features Amy Hunt, 'the British teenage sprinter tearing up the record books' and also a Brontëite:
Off it, the A-level student from Nottinghamshire was recently offered a place at the University of Cambridge to study English – her favourite authors are Charlotte Brontë, Henry James and Geoffrey Chaucer – while also finding the time to play the cello to grade six standard. (Sean Ingle)
Northwest Asian Weekly features the play The Angel in the House, a new play written and directed by Seattle’s Sara Porkalob.
“I’m an only child, and growing up, I was surrounded by adults who wanted to foster in me a love of reading. I spent most of my childhood with my nose buried in books. Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and old English/Russian/French epics were my reading fare between the ages of 9 to 14 years old. The Victorian era is one I’m very familiar with as a result and one that I love very much. I decided to write plays (and now screenplays) about the time period to reclaim it as one bodied by feminism and populated by people other than white folks.” (Andrew Hamlin)
El País (Spain) discusses the upstart aspect of the film Parasite.
En este mundo incierto, en el que un huérfano como Heathcliff puede acabar siendo el dueño de Cumbres Borrascosas, se vigilan continuamente las marcas culturales de la pertenencia a una clase. (Ana Useros) (Translation)
The Kansan recommends David Austin’s English roses 'If you love roses and are an anglophile'.
For Spring 2020, gardeners have three delightful David Austin English Roses to grow, all soft-hued with distinctive looks and fragrances.
Named for English novelist, Emily Brontë, the rose with the same name features a two-tone flower in soft pink and apricot. “Emily Brontë” adds a splash of soft color to the garden, and its blush pink dense petals have a shimmer of palest apricot. Toward the center, the apricot color darkens, adding visual depth and charm.
“In scent, ‘Emily Brontë’ delivers an unexpected plot twist. Flowers open with a fine tea fragrance, waning in mid-bloom and an Old Rose fragrance comes on strong, followed by teasing hints of lemon and grapefruit,” says Michael Marriott, technical director and senior rosarian at David Austin Roses, Ltd. Albrighton, England. (Carole McCray)
Ideas for half-term activities with the kids in The Telegraph and Argus:
In Oxenhope, Thornwood Alpacas will lead alpaca trekking – a relaxing walk across the Brontë countryside with the alpacas from the Westfield Farm site, on Lee Lane.
The alpaca trekking starts today and runs until 29 February. The prices stand at £25 per alpaca and more information can be found at visitbradford.com
Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth will also be hosting talks and walks, craft workshops and educational events on history.
The activities take place from Monday 17 to Friday 21 February and entry to the museum is free. More information can be found at bronte.org.uk. (Yusef Alam)
And now for some leftovers from Valentine's Day yesterday. BL Magazine (Italy) selected 7 films for an 'alternative? Valentine's Day. One of them was
Jane Eyre di Cary Fukunaga
Da uno dei più grandi capolavori della letteratura inglese, Jane Eyre di Charlotte Brontë, pubblicato per la prima volta nel 1847, sono stati prodotti una serie infinita di pellicole e film per la tv e miniserie, ma quello che prediligo è certamente una delle versioni più recenti (2011) ad opera di Cary Fukunaga (regista del prossimo James Bond, No Time to Die).
Una versione che enfatizza quelli che sono gli elementi più gotici del romanzo, gettando così un’ombra sinistra e minacciosa sull’amore che nasce tra il misterioso e rigido Edward Rochester (il sempre affascinante Michael Fassbender) e la dolce e volitiva Jane Eyre (una sempre brava Mia Wasikowska).
Un film dove sono soprattutto le parole e i gesti trattenuti e gli sguardi fugaci a dare sostanza e respiro a un sentimento che divampa come fuoco. (Italo Sanna) (Translation)
Expreso (Ecuador) recommended 10 unconventional love stories including both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (which, according to them was published in 1874, by the way).
Cumbres Borrascosas de Emily Brontë (1874)
Considerada en su época como “vulgar y perturbadora”, ‘Cumbres Borrascosas’ es quizás la novela romántica más tétrica de su época. Narra la historia de Heathcliff y Catherine. El primero, un niño huérfano, es adoptado por el Sr. Earnshaw y llega a vivir a la enorme finca en los páramos ingleses junto a los hijos de este, la bella Catherine, con quien entabla una amistad, y Hindley, que lo desprecia. La amistad de los niños rápidamente se convierte en un amor inconfesable, prohibido por a la rigidez de las clases sociales de la época, y Catherine, apelando al sentido común, termina casándose con su vecino, pese a amar a Heathcliff.
El protagonista huye, llevado por la tristeza y la ira, y vuelve años después como un hombre rico, dispuesto a casarse por despecho con la cuñada de Catherine. La joven, consumida por la tristeza, muere dando a luz. Heathcliff es un pésimo esposo con la noble Isabella, quien lo deja, llevándose al único hijo de la pareja.La venganza, la pérdida y el desamor marcan esta oscura historia de personajes fallidos y con poca aptitud para el arrepentimiento y la redención.Hay numerosas adaptaciones cinematográficas de la novela, pero vale la pena leer el libro, sobre todo por sus hermosos pasajes descriptivos, donde los páramos y el protagonista hacen una simbiosis impactante.
Jane Eyre de Charlotte Brontë (1847)
Las hermanas Brontë tenían predilección por las historias tristes, y Jane Eyre no es la excepción. La novela empieza con la niñez de Jane, una chica huérfana que vive con su desalmada tía hasta que es enviada a un internado. Tras graduarse, es contratada en una mansión familiar como tutora de la pequeña Adele Varens , la protegida del misterioso Sr. Rochester. Jane y el empresario se enamoran, pero se enfrentan a numerosos obstáculos, entre ellos una primera esposa desquiciada a la que este encerró en el ático de la casa.
Jane, fiel a sus principios cristianos (no olvidemos que era el siglo diecinueve) decide dejar la mansión y preservar su “virtud” antes que ceder al amor y vivir en pecado con el Sr. Rochester. En el ínterin hay reencuentros familiares, fortunas y una propuesta matrimonial que cualquier mujer en su sano juicio habría rechazado, hasta que Jane escucha la voz de su amado a los lejos y regresa a buscarlo, solo para encontrar la mansión en ruinas y a Rochester ciego y sin una mano. Aun así, el amor… ¿triunfa? Eso sin duda lo decidirá el lector. (Mariella Toranzos) (Translation)
According to Teen Vogue, 'Not every kiss will make you weak in the knees— and that's OK'.
So, yeah, sometimes it’s chemistry, and that chemistry makes us believe that because our brains and bodies convince us that we’re Cathy and Heathcliff kissing on the moors in Wuthering Heights, that this person is THE ONE. It makes us desperately want to believe that there is something deeper going on, and that we need this person and their lips, possibly forever. But sometimes, like the song says, maybe a kiss is just a kiss. (Dina Gachman)
Part 1 of the Scarborough celebrations of Anne Brontë's bicentenary is up on Brontë Babe Blog.

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