Adaptations of literary classics, be they movies, or live performances, may allow readers to feel closer to the characters within the story. They may become more associated with the author’s thoughts, feelings and intentions. Perhaps may grow to love the plot-line further and reinforce what they know of the book. There are many reasons as to why adaptations and performances of literary classics prosper on, from Shakespeare to Conan Doyle; Grimm fairytales to a Baz Luhrmann retelling.
Chapterhouse’s performance of Wuthering Heights outside Nottingham’s Wollaton Hall carries on this tradition in an outdoor performance of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and continues in throughout the UK and Ireland, spreading the rather gothic and raw story all over Britain.
Writer, Laura Turner’s adaptation begins as a flashback tale and continues on throughout the majority of the performance unlike the one that is presented within the novel, veering away from the traditional from the very beginning and allowing this performance to place its mark upon the history of adaptations. Likewise, the play allows the audience to acclimatise to the heady, passionate story, touching that deeper, more spiritual place in each person’s soul. Beginning ambiguously, almost mysteriously, the performance enhances the motif of being apart within the tale as well as focusing on each character proclivity so that the audience become aware of discrepancies and compatibilities, allowing each personality to bounce off the other as all good performances do. There is a sense of separation from society, giving the characters a more edgy, all consuming feel, something that Turner plays on with her cast of actors.
Adding humour to the story-line gave the performance a more light hearted feel as well as accentuating feelings ranging from awe to amusement from the audience towards certain characters; Chapterhouse’s performance was well adapted in terms of comedy, giving certain characters a more exaggerated role may be to persuade the audience of the brooding feel of the other characters, the antithesis between those such as Heathcliff and Isabella provide the audience with a deeper respect for each personality, each motive and nuance that drives the play towards its inevitable end. Perhaps, the accentuated characteristics within the play show the audience that the novel itself is a character driven force which ensures that the story finishes the way it does. Performances such as this one, which rely on the facets of each person in the story as a means of presenting the themes, motifs and crannies of the plot may need to be carried out with aplomb, something that Chapterhouse achieves.
Deference to the gothic Yorkshire moors remains throughout this performance, giving basis to the original plot and spreading from there to untouched areas. Mingling traditional and new ideas to create a more unique plot that serves its purpose in telling a story in a different light as well as keeping its roots remained in a way that stays true to the way Bronte wished the story to be told. Heightened by a piercing violin that rings throughout the moors and gives each character their slice of enigma, instead of being told of a cool, windy backdrop, the audience are shown it. Separating this adaptation from many others, the writer uses the unique and powerful force of music to emphasise the underlining romance, the build up towards the climax of the tale and the hair-raising, almost surprisingly spiritual ending.
Overall, the play succeeds in appearing more traditional than it actually is; exterior wise, Wuthering Heights is as it has always been: a beautiful romance between two characters who were destined towards different paths due to a series of events which circle around their personalities, wants and desires. However, Chapterhouse’s take on what makes Wuthering Heights a play that is worth watching again and again is really something to see; the gothic mist, backdrop from day to night and gorgeous ending allow the audience to fall in love with the story they once fell in love with some time ago.
For more information: http://www.chapterhouse.org/show6.html. The performance aims to continue until the 10th September.
What is the best adaptation of a classical novel, such as Wuthering Heights and why?