The Morning After Season: Wuthering Heights

Few novels of the nineteenth century convey as powerful a passion as Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, a high-Gothic family saga of destructive, toxic love on the Yorkshire Moors. The emotional intensity of the book is matched only by the intensity of Wuthering Heights' world - a quasi-supernatural world where desires border on the diabolic and where ghosts may or may not haunt the living. Yet, by updating the setting, stripping the story (according to the programme notes) of its Gothic tropes and setting the tale of star-crossed and quasi-incestuous lovers Cathy and Heathcliff in the 1980's, 3BUGS have succeeded only in trivializing the tale. The moors - so integral to the novel's aesthetic - are never once evoked; the whole production feels cloistered, held-back. Deathless love, in this adaptation, comes across as teenage angst; this Cathy and this Heathcliff are bratty, petulant teenagers rather than almost supernatural figures. If this is indeed the production's intent, it comes through clearly - but if so, why should we care?

Still, without the powerful central presence of the Heathcliff-Cathy story to sustain our interest, other characters move to the forefront. The mysterious maid Nelly is a compelling force throughout - the actress's choices complex enough to make us wonder if Nelly isn't really the driving agent behind Heathcliff's woes? So too the story of Cathy's violent brother Hindley - played here with heartbreaking savagery - who seems somewhat closer to Bronte's own Heathcliff than the dreamily romantic, if charismatic, interpretation chosen here.

The show is briskly paced and the acting is largely good - no dropped cues or moments of lag time here - and it's entertaining enough to carry us through an hour well-entertained. Still, the interpretation leaves us less than haunted thereafter.

Performances

The Blurb

Amongst the heath and harebells, Brontë's novel recollects the love story of Heathcliff and Catherine. Presented with a twist, 3BUGS’s modernised version draws upon the discontentment of the novel … a feeling uncannily similar to that of the 1980s.