The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester- until 7 March 2020
Reviewed by Joseph Everton
Andrew Sheridan’s passionate, untamed and sometimes strange interpretation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights brought a Yorkshire moor to the Royal Exchange’s stage.
Under Bryony Shanahan’s direction, a wild, uninhibited relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff formed, flourished and became an obsession, as eternal as Penistone Crags. Alex Austin’s original portrayal of Heathcliff caught the eye in a performance riddled with all of the worst characteristics of people: envy, selfishness, and unadulterated loathing.
The characters were distinctly unlikeable and, even though Hindley’s (Gurjeet Singh) jealousy and hateful bullying of Heathcliff was believable and brutal, it was difficult to feel much sympathy for him, or indeed any other character as the performance lurched from one disaster to the next. The dark and damaged script described a deep and sometimes disturbing love, bordering on obsession. The weak and neglected Edgar Linton (Dean Fagan), downtrodden by an increasingly aggressive and damaged Cathy (Rakhee Sharma), was particularly meek and manipulated as he, his sister (Rhiannon Clements) and Hindley vied for affection to no avail.
Alexandra Faye Braithwaite’s shoegaze-style musical accompaniment, performed by the excellent Becky Wilkie and Sophie Galpin, added depth to some of the more emotional moments. When things all felt rather heavy and despairing, the music brought hope and optimism.
Subtle changes to Cecile Tremoliere’s attractive staging were noticeable after the interval as the set grew with the characters. Zoe Spurr’s moveable LED strip lighting was excellent and provided a delicate glow to the stage.