The Bronte sisters’ tragically short-lived lives are reimagined for the Fringe by Eleventh Hour Theatre.
The emotionally charged scenes are gripping.
In a series of scenes we get to know the three sisters – Charlotte’s ambition, Emily’s self-imposed isolation and Anne’s pious nature, along with their brother Branwell, the black sheep of the family. The cast are very convincing in their roles, bickering as siblings do, yet understanding each other as well as they know themselves. Rebecca Vines’ title is particularly apt for that sentiment.
If you go to see More Myself Than I Am in the hopes of getting an in-depth look at how Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre were conceptualised then you might be disappointed. The books are referenced briefly but the main focus is on the journey to becoming published authors, the inter-family rivalry and the repercussons of their brother's actions.
At times it seems like certain scenes are just a vessel for one character to rant about their lot in life while another character waits patiently and then performs their own monologue, yet the touching moments of sisterly affection make up for that slight detachment. Though cramming so much tragedy in to an hour-long show can feel a bit bleak, the emotionally charged scenes are gripping and unforgettable.
Max Thomas’ Branwell is the standout performance of the show. He portrays the character as a reckless young man with opportunity and means but with a disorganised mind, beloved and esteemed by the sisters who don’t know how to help him. Thomas fully embodies Branwell at every stage of his decline; trembling with rage when he feels he has been overlooked, spitting out each word with resentment and hurling himself to the ground in a final fit of despair. Maddie Dunn’s colourful narration as Charlotte is what gives us context about the Bronté ambitions, their daily life in the home and the family’s history, and the undercurrent of bitterness in her tone is masterfully done. It's clear that a lot of effort and scrutiny went into each casting choice and it really paid off.
Overall, this is a low-budget version of the kind of period drama you might expect from the BBC, and the script reads like a story written by one of the sisters themselves. Some of the extra features like loud recordings drowning out stage performances and light book-related choreography felt a little unnecessary but did no harm to the overall impact of the piece. Fingers crossed we might one day see this show performed on a larger stage with all the extra trimmings it deserves.