Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 12:06 am by M. in , ,    No comments
Tomorrow, April 17, BBC Radio 4 will air I Believe I Have Genius, a radio play by Judith Adams based on the writings and letters of Charlotte Brontë describing her stay in Brussels and her experiences. The play will be available on line for a week after airing.
Thursday, 17th April 2008
2:15 PM - 3:00 PM
BBC- Radio 4

Afternoon Play: I Believe I Have Genius

By Judith Adams

What really happened when Charlotte Brontë - as poor, obscure, plain and little as the heroines of her later novels - travelled to Brussels to study at a girls’ school as confessed by the author herself, and built around her own writings and letters.

Charlotte Brontë 1, Or Reason ..... Laura Molyneux
Charlotte Brontë 2, Or Passion ..... Rosie Cavaliero
Constantin Heger ..... Julian Rhind-Tutt
Priest ..... David Shaw-Parker
Chappelle ..... Mark Meadows
Mme Heger ..... Elaine Claxton
Mary Taylor ..... Anne-Marie Piazza

Producer/director Jonquil Panting.
The summary of the play can be read on Judith Adams's website:
On a warm September evening in 1843, Charlotte Brontë, as "poor, obscure, plain and little" as Jane Eyre was later to describe herself, staunch and nationalistic Protestant daughter of an equally uncompromising Irish clergyman, steps into the cool interior of Brussel's Cathedral of Ste Gudule and, on impulse, goes to the Confessional and tells her story. Later she is to write to her sister Emily
"I felt precisely as I did when alone on the Thames at midnight..." (CB to EJB, 2 Sep 1843)
The story of what has driven her to unburden to a Catholic, "infidel" is the fictional journey of this play, set firmly in biographical research. Her crisis is not just that of a frustrated love for her Belgian professeur, who has unlocked her astonishing abilities, but a once-and-for all choice between two drastic escape-routes from her impossible passion: dutiful self-abnegation or rebellious authorship.
"do not ... accuse me of conceit; I do not know that feeble feeling, the child of vanity; but I know another feeling well, respect for myself, a feeling born of independence and integrity. Monsieur - I believe I have genius." (Letter from a Poor Painter to a Great Lord, Oct 1843)
"Il faut donner à son âme toutes les formes possibles." Constantin Heger.
It's not the first time that Judith Adams is connected with a Brontë project. She was the author of a Villette adaptation in 1997 at Sheffield Theatres.

From the BBC Press Office:

Judith Adams's play tells the story of Charlotte Brontë's illicit love for her Belgian professor, without whom she believed she would never have become a published writer. The drama is built around her own writings and letters.
Charlotte Brontë – as poor, plain and obscure as the heroines of her later novels – arrived in 1842 with her sister, Emily, at a girls' school in Brussels, run by M and Mme Constantin Heger. Ostensibly, the sisters had come to complete their inadequate studies in return for giving English lessons, so that they could return to England to start a school of their own. In fact, for Charlotte, the doomed love she would conceive for her charismatic teacher, Constantin Heger, would provide the model for her novels Jane Eyre and Villette.
This much is well known, and the fact that Mrs Gaskell expunged the affair from her official biography has given it extra spice over the intervening 160 years. But what is less well known is how Heger didn't just furnish Charlotte with a subject, but also used her devotion to him to provoke and inspire her writing. Adams's new play is built around Charlotte's own writings and, in it, Heger's inspirational teaching fashions Charlotte's instincts and passionate convictions with craft and discipline. His rejection of her love gives Charlotte the spur to embrace her genius along with her loneliness, and begin to rewrite her story. No longer is she the poor, plain, unloved curate's daughter humiliated by her teacher's wife: in her novels, Charlotte would be loved.

EDIT (17/06/2008):
Listen to the play on Radio Mensa.

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