Wuthering Heights – Review

Ilkley Playhouse
reviewed by Jenni Balow

There’s no problem about the actors speaking with authentic Yorkshire accents in this new adaptation of the classic novel, Wuthering Heights, as it’s presented by the Ilkley Playhouse from the heart of Bronte country.

The script has been adapted by directors Yvette Huddleston and Walter Swan, keeping faith with Emily Bronte’s original story, which goes on to explore the relationships between the next generation of Heathcliff’s, Earnshaws and Lintons, after the death of Cathy.

The fascination with this 18th century story of Cathy and Heathcliff’s desperate passion for one another, played out against the dramatic backdrop of the Yorkshire Moors, simply goes on and on, despite the fact that both of them behave very badly both towards one another at times, and certainly towards their very unhappy partners.

The actors in this two-hour-plus production have learned a ‘Bronte-Thesaurus’ of lines, keeping close to the complex original text, which is a daunting task in itself. The result is competent, but understated.

Inexplicably, the massive cliff that is the Minack, which we would all willingly believe is the wild moorland of the north, is barely exploited. Instead, the focus is very much around the miserable hearth of Wuthering Heights, and the posher drawing room at Thrushcross Grange. In the same way that Cathy and Heathcliff yearned for the freedom of the moor, this production cries out (yes, just like her) for that breath of fresh air and drama that an extended horizon could so easily achieve – even an occasional spotlight on the craggy rocks below, would relieve the cruel and brutish behaviour that unfolds in the two houses.

The Heights housekeeper Nelly (Ellen Shorrock) narrates the story to the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, Mr Lockwood (Robson Stroud). The brooding Heathcliff is Quentin Sands, and as the next generation features, Oliver Caton plays the boy and Ash Caton both the young and the very fragile Linton Heathcliff, who is described by his own father as a “whey-faced whining wretch”.

The spirited Cathy is played by Annabel Riley and Roza Hesmondhalgh and Nikki Mason is her feisty daughter. The servant Joseph (Tony Wade) gives us a chuckle in company with Zillah (Carri Marston). The rest of the cast, Patrick Hebbert, Arthur Timmins, Tim Ratcliffe, Andrew Leggott, Andy Price, Hetty Hughes, Lizzie Hebbert and Phil Marston.