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Posts Tagged ‘Emily Bronte’

Another stage adaptation of a book I haven’t read, Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel, in a version by Emma Rice for her company Wise Children. It’s quite a challenge given it’s a relatively complex tale covering three generations of two families. I felt it succeeded in part, though fell short of Rice’s best work.

It starts brilliantly with a storm, during which Lockwood visits Heathcliff, his landlord, at his moorland home Wuthering Heights. One of Rice’s inspired moves is to make the moors themselves a chorus. From here we are told about the entangled lives of both the Earnshaws, their children Hindley & Catherine and adopted orphan Heathcliff, and the Lintons, with their children Edgar and Isabella, plus the next generation – Hareton, the son of Frances Earnshaw and Cathy Linton and Linton, the son of Isabella and Heathcliff – leading up to that moment.

From soon after the opening until we meet the young Linton at the beginning of the second half, I felt it lost it’s way a bit, the storytelling laboured and somewhat forced and the ingenuity we’ve come to expect from Rice on hold, though in all fairness my companions didn’t agree, so maybe I lost interest / concentration. Anyway, the second half was very much a return to form, both in terms of storytelling and imaginative stagecraft. There’s a lot of movement and music, maybe too much, though the chorus is excellent. The screen backdrop, most effective projecting flights of birds in unison with their creation by books on stage could maybe have been used more.

Ash Hunter is a charismatic Heathcliff, troubled and troubling. Nandi Bhebhe is excellent as the head of the moors, leading their vocal narrative. I really liked Tama Phethean’s characterisation of Hareton, an imposing presence. Katy Owen almost steals the show as the frail young Linton. It’s overlong at 2 hours 50 mins and if they tightened the narrative and lost some of the first half’s ninety minutes it might be a better play. There’s lots to enjoy, though I can’t say it has made me want to read the book.

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