Wuthering Heights ★★★ National Theatre | Feb 3 - Mar 19, 2022


This is not Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights as you may remember it from school. Emma Rice's interpretation focusses on how brutalisation and family violence can be passed on from generation to generation. In this version of the tale, the characters are reduced to their essences, and subtlety is squeezed out of their characterisations to make them unambiguous and elemental. Indeed, character development is also often sacrificed to a broad humour which reinforces the stereotypes. This simplification is also stressed by the exaggerated costuming which culminates in a domesticated Hareton's appearance in an apron at the play's conclusion. Parallel to the novel's deconstruction is that of the production itself. The set is a bare-bones affair and the viewer is invited into the workings of the stagecraft. The fourth wall is broken with occasional direct address or a knowing wink to the audience. In this version, it is the role of the Chorus to provide a musical and dance commentary on the action to ensure we get the point. Similarly, characters repeat their names and a chalkboard is flashed to identify the living and the dead in case one is overwhelmed by the complex genealogy of the story. Indeed, everything possible is done to clarify and to get at the fundamentals, to expose those dark truths that inform Brontë's classic work. At the beginning of Act ll, the Chorus challenges us with the repeated line "What did you expect?" and asserts "This is not a love story."

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Steve Tanner.

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