Theatre review: Wuthering Heights, Battersea Arts Centre, London
Imaginatively staged with fearless physicality, but low on props and dressings
If you’re imagining a stage version of a cosy tea-time telly adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic, think again. Experimental theatre-maker Peter McMaster leads this troupe of four young, Scottish men in delivering a gutsy, gusty gale of a performance. Sometimes it’s comically bonkers, sometimes it’s tender, and sometimes it delivers a high octane howl that captures the doomed intensity of the novel.
If it achieves this, however, it’s not by staying at all faithful to the source; there can’t be more than a page or two of text used. The all-male company intersperse elements of the story with meditations - presumably from their own lives - on masculinity, be that childhood memories of gentle interactions with their fathers or hopes for their own futures. We’re introduced to each actor in turn, with brief personality sketches: this one has addictive tendencies, that one’s an introvert, this one is in an 11-year relationship; that one enjoys masturbating. Later, there’s a barked litany of questions about modern male identity and sexuality, going on for pages, asking about everything from porn consumption to fantasies about other men.
At the beginning, we’re asked to “bear with it” and “be honest”, and by being honest and baring all (literally, at one point) themselves, the company largely carries the audience with them. The fact that they puncture proceedings with humour helps; they’re clearly aware of the heightened ridiculousness of some scenes, and get us firmly on side (and face up to a looming pop-cultural ghost) with a downright hilarious choreographed group dance to Kate Bush’s barmy hit “Wuthering Heights” early on.
With only a few candlesticks and a couple of intentionally terribly-fitting dresses for props and costumes, this is poor theatre, imaginatively staged with a fearless physicality. And as if the cross-casting wasn’t enough, they also spend quite some time playing horses: Heathcliff’s steed as a main narrator offers an equine view on human affairs. Their trotting and snorting is another source of comedy, albeit one that veers a bit too far towards Monty Python at points.
The more personal, devised, expose all your hopes’n’fears stuff can totter into over-indulgence, and how these segments relate to the story of Cathy and Heathcliff often remains obscure. Presumably, Heathcliff as classic alpha male, dark, angry and brooding, was taken as a jumping off point for their explorations of masculinity. But trying to make such connections gives your brain a good workout; this Wuthering Heights makes you smile, but it also keeps you on your toes.
To 26 Oct; bac.org.uk
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate