As an actress in Bath, I endeavour to soak up some of my local theatre and art so I recently saw some of the Bronte Season as produced by Live Wire Theatre and Butterfly Psyche (both based in Bath) at The Rondo Theatre.
I was able to see Wuthering Heights with my mother and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with my husband, James. They were both two-handers and involved a lot of multi-rolling for the actors involved which, I know from experience, is a mighty task to take on! I'm sure rehearsals were an Everest at points and that's not even to mention the incredible and lengthy scripts they had to wrestle with. They all did fantastically!
Firstly, let me speak about Wuthering Heights which was a bit of a marathon.. My mum is an English teacher and knows the book well so she was keen to see if they would finish half way through the story, as many adaptations do, before young Catherine is introduced, but no! This time they soldiered on through and made it to the end- even adding in a last moment between the two characters after the last line of the book was spoken! Perhaps that was too far, for some people. I felt, however, that this script-heavy adaptation could have done with a bit more of showing the audience than telling us. This was hard at times with the theatre space and the nature of the story and I felt the actors did a great job switching between characters and accents.
I found it hard to tune into and believe the northern accent of Nelly Dean who didn't have a hard 'a' (i.e. glass, after etc), especially as she was telling so much of the story but she was a loveable and well-rounded character portrayal in every other respect, which helped!
The characters had chemistry and worked well together, they were brave and bold which could have been difficult in such a small theatre as The Rondo! The script was incredible, complicated and lengthy and even involved some talking to themselves which was difficult to get used to at first but once the audience was on board with the style, they were transfixed.
Watching The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a few days later, I was surprised by how different it was! The adaptation was well-written (by Alison Farina) and was very clear and concise. Perhaps the story itself isn't such a marathon as Wuthering Heights is, to begin with? I didn't know anything about it but had heard about it's feminist and alcohol-based themes in parts so I was excited to see how it was done.
The set was well-used and beautifully simple. At times, it was an extension of the actors and action and they were comfortable and precise with it. This made for a lovely image at times and helped the audience to see what the characters were doing and relate to them, rather than simply hearing about it later on and not having such an interest or care.
Being another two-hander, there was a lot of multi-rolling but this was directed in a much more stylised fashion by Shane Morgan, whose work we had also seen in Henry Walker and the Wheel of Death, featuring the two actors we saw in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall! The different characters were instantly recognisable by their stance, manner and facial expression before they even spoke so I felt this was brilliantly executed by Madelaine Rayner and Tom Turner who were funny, real, charming and had wonderful chemistry.
I was sad to miss Jane Eyre but if you are further afield and would like to catch The Bronte Season they are touring until 1st November! Follow @btterflypsyche on Twitter for all the update news on their productions!