Northern Ballet opens the autumn season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with presenting Wuthering Heights. This production is part The Brontë Season and marking the 200th year anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë. Emily Brontë’s classic, set in the moors, is loved by many and known for the obsessive and passionate love affair between Heathcliff and Cathy. Set to Claude-Michel Schönberg’s music; the talented company interprets the classic with a combination of simple and intricate dancing with Ali Allen’s stunning staging and David Nixon’s strong choreography. The focal point is obviously the relationship between Heathcliff (Javier Torres) and Cathy (Dreda Blow). Their childhood affection, from being inseparable, grows and deepens to a love which overwhelms them as well as devastates; particularly from their forced separation initiated by Hindley (Giuliano Contadini) to Edgar’s (Nicola Gervasi) hand in marriage to Cathy.
Wuthering Heights is best enjoyed for its characters; particularly of Heathcliff, and the evoked emotions. Torres gives a superb portrayal of Heathcliff whose experience of degradation, humiliation, despair, anger, jealously and revenge is linked from the childhood innocence to the unwanted circumstances as an adult. Blow beautifully and passionately interprets Cathy who is always drawn to Healthcliff but is lured to Edgar’s love and the riches and luxury of Thrushcross Grange. Torres and Blow recreates the continuous obsession and passion that both Healthcliff and Cathy had for one another with the rising chemistry generating from their dancing duets and close up movements.
Northern Ballet, under the direction of Nixon and dramaturge input from Patricia Doyle, certainly works very hard to draw out the emotions from all the characters involved and creates the intensity and intrigue expected from the story. There is a lot to pack in the two and quarter hour ballet and not once did it compromise the characters, the storyline and its emotive themes.
Allen’s sets are certainly of stark contrast but appropriate; the scenes swiftly switches in sequences between the sunshine, colourful and tame life of Thrushcross Grange to the isolated, dark and bleak landscape of the moors and Wuthering Heights. Alastair West’s revived lighting is appropriately applied and captures the moods of all the scenes. Special effects are used as weather elements when Cathy and Heathcliff meet expressing their love and Heathcliff’s contemplation as an old man during the Epilogue.
Schönberg is well known for the music he composed for Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. His creative genius captures the plot, characters and the explorative emotions for Wuthering Heights. Soft piano music and melodious instrumental tunes are played during the scenes at Thrushcross Grange and hauntingly dramatic, melancholic and fast paced music is applied for Wuthering Heights and the moors scenes.
Wuthering Heights has been well received from the audience that evening. The production has a special space in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Brontë Season. Following the success of Jane Eyre in spring this year; Wuthering Heights is another beautiful dramatic production which has a proud place in Northern Ballet’s repertoire.
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Reviewed: 6th September 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★