Review: Wuthering Heights

Drama Society presents an ambitious and striking production of Lucy Gough’s adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

The production designer, Kirsty Henley Washford, along with the costume assistance from Glynis Hughs, must be applauded for their success in creating such an engaging atmosphere in this weeks performance of Wuthering Heights at the Drama Barn. The audience is immediately transported into the Yorkshire Moors through an eerily beautiful stage illuminated by candles, decorated by cobwebs and ivy, and with the sound of the wind whistling through the room.

In adapting this classic tale of love, some scenes have necessarily been cut. I presume that scenes requiring young children were the first to be removed due to the absence of any suitably aged auditionees. However, whilst this is understandable for the constraints of student theatre, it has the drawback of making it difficult for the characters to reveal their development throughout the piece. This is manifest in the time it takes for the actors to thoroughly convey each character’s personality as they are forced to jut between the explanatory demands of the adaptation and the moments when they can fully immerse themselves in the characters at a later age.

The moments of brilliance express themselves keenly through Elizabeth Cooke, whose portrayal of Catherine Earnshaw’s descent into madness was utterly faultless

The first half is a mismatch between moments of brilliance, flashes of pretentiously artistic scenes and some jarringly inconsistent sound choices. The moments of brilliance express themselves keenly through Elizabeth Cooke, whose portrayal of Catherine Earnshaw’s descent into madness was utterly faultless. However, the added scenes, such as a member of the ensemble pretending to be a bird, somewhat detracts from Brontë’s tale. Furthermore, the administration of sound that moves between classical music and Mumford & Sons (which would not be a problem if it was not poorly regulated) is heavy-handed; the music cuts in and out without any attempt at fazing. This is not, however, a critique of the cast’s singing, which proved a beautiful embellishment to some transitional scenes.

The interaction between Elizabeth Cooke (Catherine Earnshaw) and Ross Telfer (Heathcliff) grew more emotive as the play progressed, and they worked incredibly well as a pairing. Ross Telfer’s Heathcliff became increasingly more dynamic throughout and his transformation between the two halves was extremely effective. The performances of the Linton siblings (Ben Kawalec as Edgar and Jess Corner as Isabella) revealed them in an intentionally annoying and comical light until both characters transitioned into more than one-dimensional beings, and the actors gained confidence in their roles. This was particularly noticeable in the second half when Ben Kawalec had the opportunity to become far more expressive and engaging in his rendition. Another key character that must be mentioned is Nelly Dean: the backbone of the entire production, who was played pitch perfectly throughout both halves by Annabel Redgate.

The second half was better than the first in terms of the artistic choices made by the director (Bethany Hughes) as there was significantly more emphasis on staying true to the nature of the original story. Again, there was a strong performance from the main female lead, which had, by this point, transitioned to Sophie Hurst (Cathy Linton). The only slight down-point of this Act was the haunting of Heathcliff, which was drawn out slightly too long. Perhaps this choice was intended for members of the audience who had not read the novel, in an attempt to explicitly emphasise Heathcliff’s devastating loss and yearning for revenge.

Its moments of spectacular acting and beautiful stage setup certainly make it worth watching

Drama Society’s Wuthering Heights is an ambitious production and, despite its questionable artistic decisions, its moments of spectacular acting and beautiful stage setup certainly make it worth watching.

The show will run again tonight and tomorrow at the Drama Barn, with tickets available for the Sunday performance at here.

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