22 February 2022
5.0 out of 5.0 stars
I was quite intrigued by the poster for the new production of Wuthering Heights at the National Theatre, adapted by Emma Rice. I’ve never actually read the book, so didn’t know at all what to expect, but it looked fresh and interesting, so off to the NT I went.
The stage is quite bare, with only a few chairs and rustic constructions scattered about. And we’re thrown right into the action with a somewhat silly, but very intense introduction to Heathcliff and his cold and hostile home at Wuthering Heights. From here, the story swings back to the beginning to explore how Heathcliff became the ruthless man he is shown to be at the end of the story.
What struck me the most about this production was that the narration and commentary came from the moor itself, brought to life through a chorus of dancers and very earthy, haunting songs. Giving the nature setting a character of its own and utilising this by having her interact with the characters and sway their opinions at times was a brilliant move for this production. The addition of a small live band at the back of the stage really brings this feature to life beautifully.
As the story unfolds, it is plain to see that the dramatic and often very dark material is counter-balanced through nuanced as well as physical comedy, lifting the production to an enthralling experience fully immersing the audience in highs and lows of emotion without being too oppressive or melancholic. The comedy elements are played very well and do not cheapen the story at all, rather adding a little more light to the darkness.
I was absolutely enchanted by the physicality and thoroughly charming visual depth of the show, feeling especially drawn to the windy moor character, which guides through the story so well and adds another layer of emotional personality. The rugged, multi-layer clothing of the moor characters works very well with the free spirited nature they display, and counter the crisp and clean clothing of most of the other characters very well. There is also use of a few gorgeous puppets that are very charming and beautiful, adding another rustic touch to the show.
A stunning production that had me fully focused on the characters and the heartbreaking emotional devastation unfolding on the stage. As I’m getting back to a fuller schedule of theatre bookings, I would love to see this one again if I can fit it in!