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Wuthering Heights
Published on Thursday, 16 August 2012
3

3 stars

theSpace on the Mile (venue website)
Theatre
13-18 Aug, 9:05pm-9:55pm
Reviewed by Jane Bristow

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

Based on the famously passionate novel of the same name by Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights is a bravely minimalist adaption for stage by Act One Theatre. As an ex-English Literature student and fan of the book I was keen to see how such a complex book could be turned into theatre – and presented in a mere 50 minutes.

A faithful interpretation, it centred around the doomed love between Heathcliff – the ultimate anti-hero – and Cathy Earnshaw. Heathcliff is a street urchin adopted by the Earnshaws, who becomes inseparable from Cathy, until time passes and she realises that it would severely ‘degrade’ her to marry him. Instead she goes for the safe and respectable option of Edgar Linton. And so begins Heathcliff’s revenge against her, which is complete when he forces her daughter to marry his.

In a play of this kind, the relationship between the leads is vital, and the strong chemistry between the two actors playing Cathy and Heathcliff kept the production together throughout. In such an intimate venue it became almost difficult to watch their self-destruction, the front row being about one metre from the space that the actors were using. It was also impressive that the set (which contained only four chairs and a window frame) still managed to suggest the wilds of the Yorkshire moors through sound effects produced by the cast.

However problems with the time limit did inevitably arise, and for those unfamiliar with the plot it would have certainly been very confusing. This may have been unavoidable, as the book itself is pretty complicated. One aspect which did disappoint me was the promise of ‘puppetry’ in the programme blurb, which is frankly stretching the truth quite a bit.  I felt the attempts were unnecessary, and compromised on the overall quality of the production.

Overall though, a good attempt at a difficult piece of writing. The acting was generally decent, particularly amongst the lead roles. Perhaps it just needed a little bit more to help me forget that I was in a small room in a hotel, and it could certainly have been clearer as to who was who. Most of all, four minutes might have worked for Kate Bush, but fifty was too short as a piece of theatre. Still – it was imaginative, and thoroughly absorbing.

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