According to an article in the Rep’s programme, “A stage adaptation is the ideal way to appreciate the human dimensions of the mythical creatures that sprang from the imagination of a sick, lonely and quite unique young woman”.
Well, call me elitist or call me old-fashioned, but I wonder if the ideal way isn’t actually to read her novel. The above quote suggests that some in the theatre have come to take for granted an indispensable role in interpreting literature to a public nowadays too busy to curl up with a good book. But interpretation can easily mean coarsening.
True, some outstanding pieces of theatre have been fashioned from Victorian novels over the last 40 years, but sadly this isn’t one of them.
The overall impression is of a dour slog through a filleted set-text in which we chiefly gather that the weather is very bad and people shout a lot.
April De Angelis’ adaptation, almost as wooden as Mike Britton’s set, is directed without notable flair or imagination by Indhu Rubasingham, and some of the acting is as poor as I’ve seen at this theatre. You will have plenty of time to ponder anomalies like the failure of Antony Byrne to match the many physical descriptions of Heathcliff or the anachronism of Susannah York’s pixie-crop hairstyle in the role of housekeeper and narrator-in-chief Nelly Dean.
She is a very lithe Nelly who looks as though she has just come back from the gym, unlike Emily Bronte’s portly version, put out of breath by any physical exertion.
As the sour and disapproving old retainer Joseph, David Whitworth bears an uncanny resemblance to Arsene Wenger watching Arsenal losing to Hull City.
More than most novels Wuthering Heights is dogged by its own stereotypes of stormy skies and raging passions, but here the chemistry on which it all hinges between Heathcliff and Cathy, played by Amanda Ryan as a slightly more than usually petulant teenager, never really clicks.
My advice: save money on theatre tickets and treat yourself to a copy of the novel.
* Running time: Two hours, 40 minutes. Until October 18.