Before I begin, I have a confession to make. Despite having convinced myself that I MUST have seen Wuthering Heights at some point in my life it has quickly conspired that I definitely haven’t. Therefore, The Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of the Emily Brontë novel was, in fact, my first visit to the moorland. As such, I want to make two things clear, firstly that my thoughts below won’t contain any comparisons to the novel or previous incarnations and secondly, that you never forget your first time.
Walking into the theatre I was immediately transported into the moorland, the focal point of which is a bare tree looming over the stage. Set design by Cécile Trémolières in tandem with lighting design by Zoe Spurr are very impressive as the tree casts an eerie shadow across the set which undulates providing levels for the actors to traverse.
Flanking either side of the tree is an array of instruments where musicians Sophie Galpin & Becky Wilkie reside in a ghost-like manner. This production of Wuthering Heights treads gently into the realm of musical theatre as Galpin and Wilkie perform the beautifully haunting score by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite. Bringing live music into the realm of traditional theatre elevates the production and is something I would be keen to see more of again. I would quite happily watch the show again just to focus on the performances delivered by the two musicians.
The multiple pieces of the production are sewn together by the new joint Artistic Director Bryony Shanahan to create a deliciously cinematic piece of theatre. Shanahan has done a wonderful job in creating a truly atmospheric production that brings the script to life. Of course, all of this would not be possible without the talented cast, all of whom deliver strong and well-measured performances. Both Alex Austin (Heathcliff) and Rakhee Sharma (Cathy) embody their characters and their relationship is believable and yet restrained in a manner that isn’t over the top. A standout scene
Wuthering Heights is a top-notch production that all involved should be incredibly proud of. The highlight for me has to be the musical elements, especially in the moments of high drama. It runs until the 7th March and I recommend giving it a watch.