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Bronte

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
An all-pervading slate-grey gloom hangs over Polly Teale's
impressionistic biography of the three most famous female siblings in
English literature. It's not just the spartan austerity of Ruth
Sutcliffe's bare floorboarded set, on which sits little more than a
wooden table and chairs for comfort. Nor is it the way Chahine
Yavroyen's lighting blurs between starkness and shadows. It's something
instead about how Nancy Meckler's bare-bones revival of her 2005
production for Shared Experience taps into the way Charlotte, Emily and
Anne Bronte each seem to inhabit a space beyond the daily grind that
no-one else can touch, and which liberates them even as it roots them
to the spot.

So when Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Emily's Cathy from Wuthering Heights
burst onto the stage, it's as if all the women's desires have exploded
into a vivid technicolour daydream that can't contain their inner lives
anymore. As Charlotte says of her writing, “It's to make life
bearable.” The end result as led by Kristin Atherton, Elizabeth Crarer
and Flora Nicholson playing the trio is a controlled, slow-burning
dance with words that takes the action beyond painstakingly observed
realism and, with the aid of Liz Ranken's choreography, somewhere else
entirely.

At times the sisters' tight-lipped yearning for liberation is pretty
gruelling stuff, especially when life influences art in the shape of
the Brontes' self-destructing brother Branwell. It's unfortunate too
that on opening night assistant director Tom Hughes was forced to step
into the britches of the original actor indisposed by an attack of the
vapours. This doesn't hamper things unduly, however, in a deadly
serious study of the emancipatory power of words in a man's world.

The Herald, June 3rd 2011

ends

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