The works of the Brontë sisters live in our collective mind, whether or not we’ve read them, their influence on society is palpable and certain things are just known, the fierce independence of Jane Eyre and the cruelty of Heathcliff. These themes of love, revenge, equality and fierce passion have formed the basis of so much of our modern fiction that a lot of us don't even realise just how much it is ingrained in us. The Genesian Theatre has put on a beautiful production of Brontë by Polly Teale, weaving the complicated relationships of the 3 Brontë sisters and their brother into the most famous scenes of their respective stories with a gentle touch.
I’ll be completely honest, I’m not as well versed in the works of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë as I should be, but the brilliance of this script is that it effortlessly blends their themes, storylines and characters into the story of their life that everyone can enjoy. By the end of the second act I felt like I had been reading Brontë for years. The dialogue flowed quickly and effortlessly bought together by the fierce comradery of the 3 sisters and a strong supporting cast. Director Barry Nielsen has done a great job of bringing out the nuance and characterisation in the complicated text with a small cast while making it feel accessible and entertaining.
The show is led by our 3 Brontë sisters, Charlotte played by Aneeka Brownsberger, Emily performed by Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou and Anne performed by Rebecca Harris. Each of these 3 outstanding actresses brought something different to their characters. Aneeka as the oldest sister in a family without a mother took on a fierce almost maternal protectiveness for her younger sisters, but she did not let that stray from her joy and love of writing. Emilia was a more jaded, cynical, untrusting Emily, quick to anger and speak out against the injustices she saw. And finally, Rebecca as Anne, perfectly personified the youngest sister, full of hopes and dreams, seeing the best in people and a joy in life and exploring the World and its boundless opportunities. The familial chemistry between these 3 was palpable, with the small sibling bickering and then gossiping behind each other’s back, but also having a true love for each other.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by Gregory George who played the sisters' father, Patrick Brontë. He had some beautiful moments with the rest of the cast and was a surprisingly emotional centre of the show. Theo Rule played the brother, Branwell Brontë, switching easily between a childlike interest in exploring the World and an embittered adult who couldn’t quite make his life come together. Theo Hatzistergos, played a multitude of characters, changing between the nervous Nichols, to the aggressive Heathcliff with ease and comedy. Finally, Georgia Jarrett played Bertha and Cathy, providing a bridge between the sisters and their created Worlds with an otherworldly wonder.
Genesian Theatre should be proud of this show they’ve put together that will entertain literary fans and theatre fans alike. I give this performance 3 and a half acceptance letters from the publishing company.