York Theatre Royal – until 6 May 2017. Reviewed by Marcus Richardson
‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ is early feminism in a romantic novel turned play. Originally written by Anne Bronte, one of the three Bronte sisters, the book has been adapted to stage by Deborah McAndrew. As it came to the York Theatre Royal there was a lot of excitement for this adaptation of the much loved novel. Set in gods own county Yorkshire, we follow Gilbert Markham a farmer who falls in love with a mysterious and strange woman, who has taken residence in the run down Wildfell Hall. A woman with a past ,that leaves her on her own without a man, leaves the whole village questioning her ability to raise her son.
Michael Peavoy who played the rugged Gilbert Markham, had a very interesting character as he had to capture the manliness of the nature, but also the romantic man when meeting Helen Graham (Phoebe Pryce). I found that he portrayed the character rather well, as he gave it a perfect balance between the two. Needless to say that the whole cast was absolutely stunning with each of their performances and portrayals, from the talented Susan Twist who multi-roled as two characters which I only found that out after reading the programme, to Arthur Huntington who took on a person from Helen’s past.
But the actor who stood out the most was Pryce, the tenant herself, the character with her complex past and even more complex present can be very difficult to get a hold of as she is both reserved and out-there with her attitudes. Her best feature is her interaction with other characters and how she slowly falls in love with Gilbert.
But I have to talk about the dog, when the dog came on stage, yes it was a real dog, the whole audience had the best reaction with the typical awwws.
The set was rather simple with a low wall that makes up the foundation of a house so we can get a sense of the time period and the setting, that doesn’t mean that it was a poor set, in fact I love the use of an actual fire on stage to help show the setting of the Markham house. In the second act we are introduced to a new location, somewhere grand and elaborate, to show this a gigantic chandelier came down and gave an obvious change in class and in place, with the simplicity of the set the scene changes were quick and effective.
The show will be at the Theatre Royal until May 6th, if you are classical literature fan then I would recommend this amazing adaptation of the timeless classic, even if you’ve never read the book before it proves a good insight into what society was like at the time and an interesting look on historical feminism.