Wuthering Heights at the West Yorkshire Playhouse
The Yorkshire Moors, both at this time of year and as depicted by Emily Bronte in her only novel, are not the most welcoming of sights. Windswept, rain-drenched and as haunting as the British landscape can get. So maybe we should be thankful that rather than attempting to reconstruct such a bleak outlook, Malcolm Sutherland and designer Robin Don have ventured down the multimedia road in the stage version of Wuthering Heights.
It's a path Sutherland has trod before with success, in his adaptation of Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory, and in this instance it works well - for the most part. There's a fusion of past with present, as Bronte's classic tale finds itself slapped in the face by the technology of the present day.
Bronte's book tells its author's violent love story via shifting narrative perspectives. Sutherland opts to use one narrator, housekeeper Nelly Dean (Jacqueline King), throughout the play. Now narrators may not be your bag, they certainly can be annoying, hanging around the stage as they're prone to do between vocal outbursts, but Nelly Dean reminds us that we re watching an adaptation of a canonical text. It is in fact a crucial technique that aids - along with the video, projected photographs and Mic Pool's sounds - the various transitions through time. Much of these transitions are seamless although there are, on a few of occasions, some video images that induce the odd cringe - black and white footage of a funeral ceremony; a clip of an ultrasound scan denoting a birth and, most annoyingly, bees landing on flowers. Oh, it must be summer then, thanks for the hint.
Sutherland's got himself a good cast and asks some to play multiple parts. The tall, dark and handsome Chook Sibtain scrubs up rather well as Heathcliff and instils a cool air in the cruel character. Elisabeth Dermot Walsh gives us a fragile Cathy, Michelle Abrahams an equally brittle Isabella while Cathy Sara looks to be having fun with both her Catherine and Young Nelly. As for the other men, Orlando Seale handles the fall from grace of Hindley well, Ged McKenna's Joseph has a reet Northern accent that, to great comedy effect, gets thicker as the play progresses while Ed Purver's Young Linton provides some wonderful and very camp light relief.
Wuthering Heights continues at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 27 March 1999.