Theatre Review - Wuthering Heights

EMMA Rice’s unforgettable production of Emily Brontë’s dark novel features live music, dance, striking video backdrops, puppets, slapstick, and a chorus representing the Yorkshire moors. Rice’s adaptation may not appeal to purists but her theatrical ambition is impressive.

It opens with Lockwood (Sam Archer), the well-heeled tenant of Thrushcross Grange visiting his landlord, a surly Heathcliff (Ash Hunter) at his Yorkshire home, Wuthering Heights. After a storm forces Lockwood to take shelter, he is haunted by the ghost of the late Catherine Earnshaw (Lucy McCormick), beating at his window and begging to be let in.

We then travel back into the past to learn of the entwined fates of the Earnshaws and the Lintons, which begins when Cathy’s father Earnshaw (Craig Johnson) brings home a young orphan he names Heathcliff. Earnshaw and Cathy swiftly grow to love the headstrong and determined young boy. However, Earnshaw’s son Hindley (Tama Phethean) forges an instant dislike and, after his father’s death, treats Heathcliff worse than a servant.

Their neighbours, Edgar (Archer) and Isabella (Katy Owen) Linton, live at Thrushcross Grange. When Cathy accepts Edgar’s proposal of marriage, a heartbroken Heathcliff leaves Yorkshire to seek his fortune.

He returns a few years later a wealthy man and buys his childhood home from the now dissolute and bankrupt Hindley. Heathcliff sets his sights on Thrushcross and seeks revenge on all those who ever slighted him. He starts by marrying Edgar’s naïve sister Isabella (Owen).

Rice finds light and humour in unexpected places – Owen’s mannered physicality as Isabella and her foppish Little Linton are a delight, while an impassioned rock solo from McCormick is energising.

Elsewhere, Rice imaginatively highlights the book’s visceral elements. The moors are evoked by a talented ensemble led by the mesmerising Nandi Bhebhe who serves as the main narrator. Their keening and acrobatic displays conjure extreme weather conditions and other effects.

McCormick ramps up Cathy’s madness as a ghost, shadowing Heathcliff in torn petticoats, never letting him forget what he has lost.

Stunningly staged, aided by Vicki Mortimer’s set and Simon Baker’s sound and video, with top-notch performances, this production takes Brontë’s classic to a whole new level.

Until March 19

Originally published by Camden New Journal