A humourless visit to to Haworth
Highbury Theatre Centre
Polly Teale has written a play that is packed with words, rather than action. It offers curiosity, rather than excitement. But it gives loyal followers of the three Brontë sisters the chance to take an imaginative look into their lives – at times when characters from their books are making themselves prominent.
This is an interesting intermingling of writers and the written about and it is one with which all director Sandra Haynes's players cope well. This is a strong company – albeit one in which one of the sisters was struggling with a bad cough on the first night – and one whose members move slickly between the many scenes as well as playing strongly during them.
As Cathy, she has a childlike innocence; as Bertha,
she is a lustful feline minx. All but one of her brief appearances find
her in a small space beside the studio wall. The exception is when she
advances further onto the stage but is required to get down on the
floor, which puts her out of sight of most of the audience with the
exception of the front row. If she were a couple of yards further back,
the problem would be resolved.
The famous portrait of the sisters, Anne (left), Emily
and Charlotte, by their brother Branwell. He first painted himself in
the family portrait then painted himself out - rather badly - supposedly
to avoid cluttering the canvas, leaving his ghostly image hovering
in the background
The famous portrait of the sisters, Anne (left), Emily and Charlotte, by their brother Branwell. He first painted himself in the family portrait then painted himself out - rather badly - supposedly to avoid cluttering the canvas, leaving his ghostly image hovering in the background
Alison Cahill is Charlotte Brontë – a strong, resolute
characterisation, despite the affliction with which she was struggling.
Fate being what it is, it falls to her to proclaim that her health has
been good since her honeymoon. Stephanie Doswell is Emily, also firm of
purpose and declaring an absence of any desire to learn embroidery. And
Elizabeth Lycett is Anne, self-described as strange and brittle and apt
to deliver some of her many lines rapidly enough to offer a challenge to
the audience to keep up – but a worthy cornerpiece in the literary
triangle that is housed by Haworth parsonage.
Peter Molloy is the father of the sisters. He is also
Ben Nicholls (the curate), Mr Heger (Charlotte's tutor, with a fine
passion for words) and Rochester (from Jane Eyre). He has a busy
time – on one occasion having to switch between an English and an Irish
accent in the time it takes him to go out of one door and in by another,
but he copes without a qualm.
Mark Roberts catches the eye with a powerful account
of the dissolute Branwell, brother of the sisters and branded a liar,
thief, cheat and fraudster; and Oliver Leonard is the man without whom
no study of the Brontës could hope to be complete – Heathcliff, straight
out of Wuthering Heights.
This is a weighty occasion, finding no room for the slightest suspicion of humour but offering an absorbing experience for anyone prepared to give it a try – and the studio was packed to the gunwales on opening night. To 23-10-10
373 2761 (see website for times)
373 2761 (see website for times)
(see website for times)