Review: Wuthering Heights at Northern Stage

Review: Wuthering Heights at Northern Stage

Wuthering Heights – Northern Stage

7th June 2023

Lovely to be back at Northern Stage again this evening, where I always get a warm welcome. I do love the bar area which is spacious and airy, and there is a lovely green area outsidewhere you can enjoy a drink when you arrive half an hour early like I did this evening. 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is a classic novel much loathed by many a GSCE English Literature student and tells a brooding tale of the much-maligned Heathcliff and his obsession with the younger of the children, Catherine, of the eponymous stately home. 

Like the novel, this adaptation by Ben Lewis, tells the tale from the memories of housekeeper Nelly Dean but I got the sense that in this production, Nelly was not simply recounting her witness but instead was on trial for her part in the tragic story of jealousy, early deaths, bullying and ultimately love. 

Nelly (Giula Innocenti) is matronly and motherly in fer portrayal of the housekeeper and has her work cut out because she rarely leaves the stage as she guides and mentors several generations of families through the two households in the narrative. Heathcliff (Ike Bennett) is introduced as a juvenile adopted by the alcoholic, cold Master of Wuthering Heights Earnshaw (Leander Denny) from the streets of Liverpool. Bennett is excellent in the role guiding this tortured character from adolescence through to adulthood and portraying all the different nuances of this complicated character very well. His affection for Catherine (Lua Bairstow) feels genuine and the pair of them work very well together. 

All the other members of the cast have multiple roles and, my goodness, they do work very hard indeed. I have already mentioned Leander Denny as the patriarch at the start but he also plays Edgar and Linton in the piece. His facial expressions and comedy timing are a joy to watch and often had the audience laughing out loud. The costume change between Edgar the father and Linton the son is an inspired piece of theatrical silliness which is utterly delightful.

My special mention goes to the multi role playing John Askew who takes on the parts of Hindley and Hareton. I would use his performance this evening as the perfect example of ‘being present’ on the stage. His focus was superb this evening and maintained his character even when the spotlight was not on him during any particular scene. He deserves an award for his contribution towards the end of act one. Bravo, sir!

The set, as is often the case, is deceptively simple suggesting the kitchen in which the housekeeper works but the lighting design by Ben Omerod (for the second time in two days) brings added nuance and subtlety to the production. Watch out for the scene where Isabella (Nicole Sawyerr) throws a knife. The direction by Lucinka Eisler is flowing and very slick. The soundscape throughout this production is well considered and haunting in places as it should be given the source material. Many congratulations to all the technicals and creatives for this brilliant adaptation. 

Wuthering Heights plays at Northern Stage until 10th June and please note there is some strong language peppered throughout this production. 

– Stephen Stokoe

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