Thursday 24th April to Saturday 26th April and Tuesday 29th April to Saturday 3 May 2008
Directed by Ingrid Corrigan
Bronte explores how three Victorian sisters living in isolation on the Yorkshire moors, came to write some of the most powerful and passionate fiction of all time.
We see the real and imagined worlds of Charlotte, Emily and Anne as the fictional characters come to haunt their creators and how they are affected by their brother Branwell's descent into alcoholism and insanity.
'Brontë' is Teale's third and final play to explore the works of the Brontë family, following on from her adaptation of 'Jane Eyre' and her original play 'After Mrs Rochester', which was based on the life of Jean Rhys and her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, (itself inspired by Jane Eyre). The play was first performed by Shared Experience Theatre Company in 2005 and depicts the lives of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell Brontë.
The play begins with three actresses in modern dress discussing the Brontës and their work. As they don their costumes they assume the identities of Emily, Charlotte and Anne. Without a chronological structure, the characters move back and forth in time recounting scenes from their lives both as documented and as imagined by the author. Throughout the play, the story of the three women and their brother is entwined with appearances from the characters from their writing. The play also shows the difficulties the writers had in their private and literary lives, not least of which was the inherent chauvinism entrenched in Victorian society, the hardship of life as an unmarried woman and the poor health of all of all four of them which lead to their untimely deaths.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. The production was nominated for 'Best Amateur Drama' and Alice Corrigan was nominated for 'Best Amateur Actress' for her portrayal of Charlotte in the The News 'Guide' Awards 2008. Francesca McCrohon was nominated for 'Best Amateur Actress' for her portrayal of Emily in the The Southern Echo 'Curtain Call' Awards 2008.
Arthur Bell Nicholls
|Assistant Director||Peter Corrigan|
|Stage Manager||Zoë Chapman|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Claire Lyne|
|Lighting Design||Jacquie Penrose|
|Lighting Operation||Emily Tipper|
|Sound Designer||Darryl Wakelin|
|Sound Operation||Lucy Tipper|
|Set Design||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Set Construction||Kevin West |
|Poster and Flier Design||Nathan Chapman|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
|Front of House Manager||Gina Farmer|
I am not a writer by nature but, as a reader, I am moved, transported and refreshed by good writing. The subject matter of this play grabbed me from the outset. How do writers go about their creative process and at what cost to themselves? This is Polly Teale's third and final play on the subject of the Brontë sisters. In it she returns to the source of the books these women wrote: "How was it possible that these women, three celibate Victorian sisters, living in isolation on the Yorkshire moors, could have written some of the most passionate (even erotic) fiction of all time?" (The Guardian 2005) I wanted to know the answer to that question. How to reconcile the real world with the world of imagination? Polly Teale has created a wonderful highly theatrical piece which has been a pleasure to explore with an enthusiastic cast of actors. This is not a straightforward telling; Polly Teale and the company with which she devised the piece, "Shared Experience" are "interested in theatre's potential to make visible what is hidden, to give form to the world of imagination, emotion and memory, to go beyond the surface of everyday life." There are no scene divisions, the scenes just flow into each other, even when there are jumps in chronological time. The actors have to play a range of parts, switching between characters in an instant. The fictional characters invented by the sisters co-habit the stage as metaphors for the inner selves of the writers. I have come out of the experience of directing this production knowing more than when I started. I hope the cast feel the same and I am sure the audience will too if they allow "the power of the imagination to transcend time and place and circumstance, to take us to places we cannot otherwise go."
Polly Teale's play is specifically about one of history's most remarkable literary families, the Brontës of Haworth in Yorkshire. More widely it is about the world of the imagination. It was written for Shared Experience, a theatre company that uses physical expressionism to delve - imaginatively -beneath the surface of events. Not an easy style for non-professional companies.
Ingrid Corrigan, directing for Bench Theatre, achieves the merging of actors into historical figures into fictional characters well. But the emergence of the ghosts of Cathy (from Wuthering Heights) and Bertha (Jane Eyre) from behind permanent black curtains seems like a single contrived device rather than part of a broader concept as Shared Experience would make it. Yet the sense of claustrophobia among the three Brontë sisters and brother Branwell is powerfully achieved, and much of the acting is admirable.
Alice Corrigan gives possibly her finest performance to date as a bossy, raging Charlotte, and that makes Francesca McCrohon's brooding stillness and troubled questioning as Emily all the more telling. David Penrose is delightful both as their gently-spoken father and - within moments - as his comically tiptoeing curate. And the same actor's Mr Rochester is especially touching in his blindness.
But Penrose unwittingly highlights a weakness elsewhere. The accuracy of his Irish accent exposes distractingly inconsistent Yorkshire tones elsewhere. If the cast cannot manage that, better to abandon the attempt altogether. Further performances tonight and from next Tuesday to Saturday.
The News, 25th April 2008
Full marks to this group of six talented actors and back-stage crew who did full justice to the sometimes harrowing tale of the Brontë family. From the opening scene where background information is imparted by the sisters prior to their donning period costume, the story unfolds seamlessly. Director Ingrid Corrigan made the most of scene transformations - necessary in this three-hour play.
Alice Corrigan (Charlotte), Francesca McCrohon (Emily) and Lorraine Galliers (Anne) each made personal interpretations of the characteristics of the three sisters to great effect. David Penrose as the father - and also in three other roles - and Lynda Fleming, as characters from two novels, both gave good performances. The director's set and sound design (Darryl Wakelin) deserved praise. Brontë runs until May 3.
Southampton Echo, 26th April 2008