Bronte

The Brontë Sisters as writers changed the literary world as we know it. The Victorian era was full of literature that loved to shock, insinuate and more - as long as you were male. Using male pseudonyms to begin with, this band of three released classics such as Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë), Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë) and The Tennant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Brontë) and challenged everyone's mindset with what may well have been psychologically sizzling underneath the surface. Polly Teale's Bronte looks at this unique family's historical roots; how they lived, wrote and viewed the world.

Brighton Little Theatre takes on this insightful text of Teale's with such vigour.

Brighton Little Theatre takes on this insightful text of Teale's with such vigour. Each character we see has clearly been researched in great detail and they come to life on stage. The sets are beautifully constructed so that we immediately visualise the Brontës in their kitchen, or on the moors, or living in their heads. The combination of the cast building the set, the direction and choreography of Nettie Sheridan and Myles Locke's detailed lighting adds to the atmosphere the sisters created, as well as the almost fluid differentiation of each stage space we see as it evolves.

But really, it is the strong cast that makes Bronte come to life. Everyone doubles up to not only represent the Brontës themselves, but the real life people who influenced their most famous characters, as well as people like Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff, Jane Eyre, Mr Rochester and more. Polly Jones (Emily), Lois Regan (Anne) and Joanna Aykroyd (Charlotte) portray the three sisters with such truthful performances and a closeness that shows complete trust between them. This enables them to show a family that has the capability of being creative in their own little worlds one moment, but stubborn enough to be capable of being angry without saying much.

Steven Adams takes on the roles of Patrick Brontë (the father), as well as Mr Rochester, Constantin Heger and Arthur Bell Nicholls. Each one is shown sensitively with subtle characteristic changes to differentiate between all of them. But it is Patrick who is particularly performed with dexterity and harshness, that we can see a potential influence for people like Rochester in Jane Eyre, as he comes across as complicated, yet respected. Joining him is Joseph Bentley who takes on the troubled sibling Bramwell, alongside Heathcliff and Arthur Huntingdon. Bentley is one to watch as he takes us on the emotional journey Bramwell has with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as mounting debt. He does this with such immersive strength that each character he plays is so different from one another and is sensitively moving each time he metaphorically falls off a cliff.

However, it is Ella Jay Morley's Catherine Earnshaw and Bertha Mason who beautifully symbolises the sexual suppression of the Brontë's era, as well as the frustration of not being able to have a voice. Her stimulating performance brings everyone together to make sure all are heard in their own way and is a joy to watch.

Whether you are aware of the Brontës or not, this is a text to be discovered and explored.

Reviews by Sascha Cooper

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Performances

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The Blurb

An exciting, extraordinary imagining of the turbulent lives of the Bronte sisters, their brother, Bramwell and their father, Patrick. The play evokes the real and imagined world of the sisters as they write furiously, struggling to align their creations with real life whilst their fictional characters appear to haunt them. Weaving back and forth in time focusing on their creation of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights respectively, their journeys are a window into their state of mind at a time when their lives were dreary and uneventful.

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