Wuthering Heights

4
Emma Rice's adaptation seen at the Bristol Old Vic
By Paula - 21st Oct 2021

Wuthering Heights Review

Adapting Emily Bronte’s tale of stormy passion and cruelty on the Yorkshire moors for theatre seems the perfect fit for Emma Rice and Wise Children company; but admirers of her work and recent productions may be left feeling this production of Wuthering Heights, starting its tour at Bristol Old Vic, doesn’t quite deliver.

That said, there is no doubt this adaptation brings the wild, cruel passion of Bronte’s troubled families to life with devices now expected and widely anticipated (from Rice) – puppets, song, music – executed by a cast whose teamwork and commitment is undoubted. Nandi Bhebhe (The Moor) and company bring energy and enthusiasm to both dialogue and musical intermissions which keeps the pace alive over this 3-hour production. And clever use of blackboards helps the audience keep track of the endless demises throughout the narrative.

Whether you consider Wuthering Height to be a love story or a tale of troubled ‘siblings’ and intergenerational abuse, many of us have a preconceived idea of the central characters – Cathy (Luck McCormick) certainly brings her own power and plays the role with gusto. Wailing and wind machine madness see her head banging to a death metal original at the end of act one; a highlight for the audience. As Heathcliffe (Ash Hunter) may disappoint; his performance vacillated throughout, in the second act never quite embodying the inner struggle, instead playing to the menace of revenge but a rather unengaging interpretation.

The most engaging, eye-drawing performance of the night came from Katy Owen – using her petite stature, exquisite timing and vocal skills to comedic perfection as Isabella Linton and Little Linton. A show stealing performance (not unexpected given her memorable performance as Grandma Chance in Wise Children).

As the cast so aptly sing at the beginning of the Act 2 “If you want romance go to Cornwall’, Bronte's Yorkshire is dark and cruel. Whilst maybe not delivering on all levels, this is still an entertaining piece of theatre, enthusiastically received by the audience.

Paula Luke


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