The Wise Children production of Wuthering Heights brought a refreshing take on the classic novel by Emily Brontë.
Words by Holly Bacon
Despite the presumed difficulties concerning timeline and complicated character-tracking, Wise Children was able to skilfully adapt the well-known novel to the stage. As soon as I walked into the theatre, I became immediately impressed by the production’s utilisation of the stage. It was very refreshing to see that the show had taken an industrialised and gritty style to a familiar story — a very fitting change for the brutal portrayal of prejudice within relationships and the torture of desire and longing whilst trying to maintain status and reputation. The influence from Epic Theatre was pronounced; a live band was present on stage, set changes were not hidden from the audience, the use of a large projector and the skilful use of chalkboards to indicate characters. This was an effective stylistic choice for this particular production, due to the frequent shifts in location, time and interpersonal relationships between characters.
As an audience member, it relieved the stress and confusion and allowed the relationship between Heathcliff (Liam Tamne) and Catherine Earnshaw (Lucy McCormick) to shine through. Their carefully constructed dynamic created a powerful and devastating portrayal that perfectly captured the audience’s focus whilst harmoniously pairing actors in an ensemble cast. The actors played both younger and present versions of themselves, resulting in a nuanced portrayal of each character.
Where the production fell short was the chaos of genre and tone. Wise Children are known for the playful nature of their productions, and Wuthering Heights is no exception. For the majority of the play, the composition was able to work in harmony with the scenes to create tone and establish setting whilst also introducing a theatrical style to the story by incorporating musical moments where the actors sang original songs. These moments revitalised the traditional soliloquy and monologue, added a height of drama and allowed the Gothic themes of the original story to be apparent. Personifying the Moors was an interesting stylistic decision; while it made for an interesting take on the iconic setting of ‘Wuthering Heights’, it did seem out of place with the rest of the play. The production’s use of music, while unique and intriguing, eventually became a hindrance to the production as it was overdone. For example, when Catherine broke out in a rock solo the response was confusion and disorientation rather than one of understanding.
Overall this production of ‘Wuthering Heights’, attempts to breathe life into an iconic Gothic romance, but the playful nature of the show and the heavy-handed use of music undercuts the grand, sweeping romance.