Wuthering Heights at Rosemary Branch Theatre

  • Theatre
Wuthering Heights at Rosemary Branch Theatre


Thu, 17/04/2014 - 15:44


Jack Benjamin in Wuthering Heights.  Photo: Andy Barker
Jack Benjamin in Wuthering Heights. Photo: Andy Barker
17 April, 2014

“A FIEND of a book – an incredible monster,” was how Dante Gabriel Rossetti referred to Emily Bronte’s classic novel Wuthering Heights.

Certainly, setting yourself the goal of adapting a story that encompasses two generations of one family torn about by a tempestuous love affair, set around the Yorkshire Moors is no mean feat – especially when it will play on a claustrophobic stage like at the Rosemary Branch Theatre. But Helen Tennison adapts and directs this production with real sensitivity.

She uses a combination of inventive visuals and a flexible farmhouse set to conjure up an expansive sense of space so that the forces of nature are strongly evoked. Actors clamber in and out of windows and hidden doors to convey the characters’ thirst for freedom, while bold lighting changes accompanied by haunting projections and music work to conjure up the passage of time and Cathy’s spirit. Cathy’s haunting scenes – moments that can easily appear overdone, absurd even – are well handled.

Lucinda Lloyd is a wonderful choice as Cathy: tender and fierce, playful but headstrong, it is a gift of a role and Lloyd is extremely watchable. Jack Benjamin has a strong stage presence but his Heathcliff lacks a real sense of threat. Once Cathy dies, the story can wane but Helen Watkinson invests young Cathy with impressive energy.

The adaptation is so faithful to the novel’s original structure that it can feel laboured as every plot point is ticked off. Too much time is taken setting up the flashback framework and Nellie’s narration does not need to be as detailed on stage.

There are also some extremely dodgy wigs on display as actors double up roles and make some unconvincing transitions. But then, needs must, and it would be unfair to quibble too much over such details given the production’s considerable merits.

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