Teale's 2005 drama for Shared Experience is a meditation on the
novelist sisters of Haworth, on what made them write and how their
writing reflected their personalities. Her hypotheses are sometimes
contentious, sometimes enlightening, but always interesting.
is not the same as 'engrossing' or 'involving', and a thought-provoking
literary analysis is not the same as a successful play.
Teale's similar play about Jean Rhys a few years ago, I said it felt
like the staged seminar paper of a really clever postgraduate student
in English literature, and Bronte has much the same quality.
seminar discussion following the paper would be lively and stimulating,
just as your post-play conversations might be, but they would be about
literary theory and not drama, intellectual in nature, not the result
of emotional involvement in a created reality.
reasonably enough, on Charlotte and Emily. She imagines Charlotte to be
conservative and conventional at heart, a woman who would much
rather have been a totally ordinary wife and mother.
onstage by her creation, the first Mrs. Rochester - not, as most modern
feminist critics read the madwoman in the attic, as a symbol of male
fear of female sexuality, but as Charlotte's own fear of any and all
passions and unconventional impulses within herself.
more rebellious Emily is haunted by her Cathy Linton, representing the
free spirit who destroys herself by choosing the conventional path.
to be more ordinary, Emily's repugnance at the small concessions to
convention she must make, and Charlotte's distaste for Emily's less
restrained and self-censored writing make up pretty much all the
characterisation and drama in what is otherwise just a mix of biography
and lit crit.
most likely to produce an emotional response comes near the end, when
we are told that Charlotte's prudery led her probably to destroy a
novel Emily left behind when she died and certainly to censor and
rewrite her posthumous poetry.
even that is
more an intellectual reaction than a gut one, and however much Kristin
Atherton as Charlotte and Elizabeth Crarer as Emily may work to express
artistic and spiritual torments, they too rarely come alive as
characters and not just biographer's conjectures.
Anne is allowed little more than the occasional comment on how rough
poor people's lives are, to remind us that her novels have a social
awareness her sisters' don't. Frances McNamee flits in and
Cathy and Mrs. Rochester, and Mark Eden-Hunt as brother
and Stephen Finegold as father Patrick do what they can with what are
not imagined beyond stock figures.
direction should feel more fluid than it does, moving from scene to
scene with little more than the repositioning of a table and a couple
of chairs, but she punctuates each scene with a slow blackout, as if to
mark the making of an analytical point and announce that the next scene
will begin a new chapter in the seminar paper.
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- Bronte - Tricycle 2011