Last night I attended Wuthering Heights at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh. I must admit I have never read the epic Emily Bronte novel that is piece is adapted from, so I was not sure what to expect. Wuthering Heights follows Heathcliff who is rescued from the Liverpool docks as a child where he is adopted by the Earnshaw’s and taken to live at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff and Catherine (daughter of the Earnshaw’s) find they are one in the same and a fierce love ignites.
However, in this production of Wuthering Heights you can expect to be by carried through the story with music and dance and the ensemble who play the role of the moors and they will be your guide.
Liam Tamne was the perfect Heathcliff. At the beginning of the show the audience are presented with this mysterious man who is dark and brooding but as we flashback to Heathcliff as a boy, we see him trying to fit into the new family he has been adopted into. In scenes with Catherine as children we see them laughing and having fun together. Tamne did well to differentiate between these different moments in Heathcliff’s life and he was very versatile.
Lucy McCormick has a palpable energy as Catherine Earnshaw. Again, much like Heathcliff we see Catherine move through life and as the story unfolds and Lucy did well to discern between the different points in Catherine’s life. The older she got the more the audience saw her character spiral out of control. Lucy also had a fantastic voice and her rock ballad at the end of act one was exceptional. I really enjoyed Lucy’s performance however I did feel sometimes she portrayed Catherine too hysterical.
Tama Phethean played both Hindley Earnshaw and Hareton Earnshaw and both characters were worlds apart. Tama’s Hindley was despicable and horrible toward Heathcliff from the get go and then he would turn to his wife and be charming. Toward the end of act one I started to really feel sorry for Hindley’s character and the vulnerability that Tama gave to the character was very accessible. Tama’s Hareton was very much on the side-lines of act one but in act two his character came to life and his relationship with young Cathy was interesting to watch.
Katy Owen was stellar as both Isabella Linton and Little Linton. Her energy was utterly incredible and the way she incorporated movement into both of her characters was fascinating. Katy’s little asides to the audience were hilarious and her comic timing was great. Her over the top balletic moves and beautiful lines as Isabella were to die for. As Linton she was the right amount of annoying and spoiled. Thoroughly enjoyed Katy’s portrayals as both characters.
Sam Archer played both Lockwood and Edgar Linton and gave great performances in both. His character Lockwood is one of the first characters we see in this production and he was very likeable and comedic. Edgar Linton is again overall a very likeable character toward the end we see a man scorned by his wife but he has always loved Catherine and that really stands out in Archer’s performance.
Stephanie Hockley played Catherine Linton beautifully, she was strong and independent and curious about the world. She was very accessible and the relationships she created with characters such as Hareton were lovely to watch.
Craig Johnson also plays two characters in Wuthering Heights. He is both Mr Earnshaw and Doctor Kenneth. Johnson’s Mr Earnshaw exudes kindness ad we see this when he first meets Heathcliff and brings him home to live with his family. Doctor Kenneth on the other hand indulges more in darkness of the world. This can be seen in his speech about all of the people that have died recently and he asks “What is the point of it all”.
Nandi Bhebhe does a sublime job at the Leader of the Moor. She had a magnificent voice and her fluidity of movement was astounding. Nandi acted as the narrator of the show and did well to lead the audience through the story.
The ensemble was an integral part of this show as they played the role of the Moor. They all had great energy. The ensemble for this performance consisted of Katy Ellis, TJ Holmes, Jordan Laviniere and all of the cast member mentioned above as well.
Emma Rice’s direction and adaptation of this beloved novel was innovative and exciting for the most part. She brought together many different conventions such as puppetry, music and dance to tell the story. I found it very interesting how the number of unaccompanied children who seek asylum in the UK inspired Rice’s version of Heathcliff. I did feel the first act was quite difficult to get into. Sometimes the plot was confusing and even though the leader of the moor was narrating most of the story, I felt some moments felt a tad out of place. The second act was much stronger and the pacing worked really well.
Ian Ross composed the show and I did enjoy the score. Some of the songs were repeated throughout the piece quite a few times and toward the end of the performance, these were mainly from the ensemble. I think it would have been better to manipulate either the lyrics or the score to differentiate from the rest but still keep the general motif. I really enjoyed Catherine’s rock ballad toward the end of act one.
Etta Murfitt was the movement director and choreographer and the one thing I enjoyed the most about this production was the movement. Especially when each character was moving through the Moor to get home. I liked the use of ropes and also how the ensemble moved as the moor.
Puppetry was used throughout Wuthering Heights and John Leader was the Puppetry director on this show. I really enjoyed how the puppet were operated by someone who was not playing that character and the character would use the voice to bring the puppet to life. Puppets were more commonly used when the characters were children.
Overall Wuthering Heights was an innovative adaption of the classic novel. The characters come to life but the pacing of the show is not consistent. The direction is ambitious and for the most part works well however sometimes all of the different conventions used are a little overwhelming and don’t always work well together.
Get tickets for ‘Wuthering Heights’ here: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/wuthering-heights