A spectacle from which you could not take your eyes from, Wuthering Heights, based on Emily Brontë’s novel, breaks all expectations and properly delivers a familiar story with unfamiliar settings.
The play about two families living on the West Yorkshire moors, linked in blood as in hatred and love, tells the story of Heathcliff who after being rescued and adopted by the Earnshaws begins to create a close bond with Catherine Earnshaw. However, just as their friendship blossoms into something new, their love is challenged by the two families and a sequence of tragic yet passionate events unfold.
To most people who have read, or at least heard of, Wuthering Heights the 1847 British novel by writer Emily Brontë, this play turned musical (for the Lowry’s version) will satisfy those familiar with the story. Even with characters changed, like the narrator (Nandi Bhebhe) being changed from a normal maid into a physical representation of the land or “The Moor”, it still follows the story beat for beat.
To someone who has never read the novel this might sound cliché or a beat for beat on Romeo and Juliet’s star-crossed lovers’ tale. Even when waiting in the theatre myself, those same expectations began to cloud my mind.
But all expectations were broken as soon as the play began.
Heathcliff (Liam Tamne) the main character, was shown as a cold, unpathetic, and ruthless character with all the qualities of a villain. Catherine Earnshaw (Lucy McCormick) the “love interest” was portrayed as a tragic being of pain, someone who had lost all sense of herself.
The entire theatre, filled with such a diverse audience, was immediately hooked into knowing “Why? Why had our heroes become like this?”, and the play wastes no time in explaining.
The play’s scenery is taken directly from a folktale of the likes of a children’s book, with chairs toppled on top of each other to simulate trees, and crowns of grass and branches wore by the main characters and The Moor, a love letter to old British folk tales and atmosphere.
The performances can be nothing but praised. From the cold demeanour of Liam Tamne’s Heathcliff to the wildness and passionate Lucy McCormick’s Catherine, the skills and talent of the actors perfectly brings the play to different moods without breaking scenes or creating awkwardness. Lucy McCormick’s performance perfectly encapsulated the hysteric personality of Catherine, from showing her as a well-dressed lady, all the way to having her do a self-aware rock and roll solo (with mic drop included). The extras are also comical and effective every second they spend on stage, the audience could only wonder how else would the main characters interact with those sitting on the sides.
The balance between normal dialogue and the music is incredibly mastered and choreographed. Every song is filled by sentiment and passion from a mix of folk to rock genre, with the band fully visible to the audience. The songs serve a purpose to explain or show the rawness of each character’s feelings and the dances make full use of the props around them as well as the layered costumes.
However, even without the romance or the folklore or the music, the play is carried by its comedy directly from the “Comedy Gold” book of jokes. If the backstage extras are not taking your eye with their perfectly timed interactions with the main characters, or the crazy dynamic of the families is not new to you, then just wait for Little Linton at the latter half of the show.
Wuthering Heights, even if timed by the ages, still manages to grab new audience with its new renditions. The Lowry’s version is a must watch to anyone who loves British folk and tragedies, and it is highly recommended to anyone who wants to be astonished with wonderful performances and music.
Wuthering Heights is at The Lowry until Saturday 7th of May. Tickets are available on The Lowry’s website.