What would Emily Brontë have made of
This success due in part to April de Angelis’s script, liberally sprinkled with a humour that, given the somberness of the novel, is surprising and makes for an entertaining evening (though perhaps purists attached to the book may find it hard to adjust to!). Some humour is aimed knowingly at the audience – there is a sly reference to 'frittering your life away on silly trifles – like trips to the theatre' and a character’s desire to 'take a fifteen minute sojourn' announces to the audience that it’s interval time.
The production largely eschews props of any kind – an interesting choice that focuses attention more closely on the story at hand. Instead, the actors mime – even the taking of tea – while well-timed sound effects accompanying the mimed closing of doors. Punctuating the story are bursts of folk music, composed by former Bellowhead drummer Pete Flood. These haunting musical highlights are performed by the talented cast on a variety of instruments (including guitars and a flute), and do much to create the atmosphere of the moors.
So strong is the cast of eight (some of whom play multiple roles) that it is impossible to single anyone out for special mention. James Sheldon is Mr. Lockwood, Heathcliff’s tenant, a dashing gentleman with the inflated belief he is irresistible to the ladies. Sheldon’s role is largely to provide comedic relief and receive the story, but he also has the unenviable job of opening the play – it falls to him to ably set the scene and convince us of the darkness, the snow and the sheer wuthering bleakness. Helen Belbin is Nelly Dean, the servant who recounts the tale to Lockwood, and it is her capable performance that anchors the story - an especially important role, as much in the plot is recounted by her rather than shown.
Dominic Charman is a suitably loathsome fop Edgar Linton (and also the young Linton). Rachel Winters ably portrays Edgar’s similarly-spineless sister Isabella, who nevertheless manages to capture our sympathy as, having attained Heathcliff as a husband, she starts to realise his true nature. Christopher Laishley is the wonderfully savage servant Joseph, complete with broad
Special mention too must go to Ronin Traynor’s fight choreography – and its execution by the cast. It can be challenging to simulate convincing fisticuffs to an audience a few feet away, but the violent interludes are wincingly realistic. The costumes by Adrian Lillie are also excellent.