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Theatre Wuthering Heights, Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester

Adaptation of Bronte classic fails to scale the heights

WHAT a great time to stage a theatrical version of Wuthering Heights, with Storm Ciara and her running-mate Dennis creating havoc.

Sadly, though, their fierce winds and torrential downpours create more passion and fear than this somewhat disappointing production of Emily Bronte’s classic novel.

It all starts so well, with the excellent Sophie Galpin and Becky Wilkie playing haunting guitar, synth drums and keyboard, evoking the perfect eerie and brooding soundscape for the disaster that is about to unfold.

Yet though the early scenes between the boisterous Cathy and Heathcliff work reasonably well, the attempt to lighten the mood with some comedy is misguided.

The relationship between the wild moors and the corresponding intensity of Cathy (Rakhee Sharma) and Heathcliff (Alex Austin) is at the heart of the story and, although Cecile Tremolieres’s set design and Zoe Spurr’s lighting create an evocative moorland, the essential spark between the two lovers is missing – it is hard to imagine that their love runs so deep that only death can release them.

The novel’s narrative of raw, unfettered emotion, passion, torment and a love so intense it becomes destructive is its very essence and has to be the basis of any adaptation.

But tossing in the odd modern parlance and a few fucks at the expense of the story’s heart doesn’t make it more relevant today.  It merely loses its soul.

David Crellan as Earnshaw and Rhiannon Clements as Isabella put in creditable performances and the addition of the few snippets from Bronte’s beautiful poetry works well. But ultimately it’s down to the two wonderful musicians to save the day.

Runs until March 7, box office: royalexchange.co.uk

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