Emily Bronte's Classic? Not the novel I know and love
6:10 PM - 10/10/2014
I so want to give this a 5 star review - and I will for lighting, effects, broodiness, capturing the darkness of the story and for the poignant and often explosive emotion and perfect delivery by the two leads - Melanie Zanetti in the dual roles of Catherine and Cathy and Ross Balbuziente as Heathcliff. I’ve seen Melanie in both Pygmalion and Romeo and Juliet and today she lived up to her usual fine performance. The other players, except for one, did a wonderful job, too – no fluffing of lines or miscues. All of these elements and actors were outstanding and I would love to applaud them with a standing ovation. But sadly, that's where my applause stops. If not for those aspects, I would only be able to give it a 1 star review. Why on earth Gerry Connolly was cast as a FEMALE in the biggest role of all - narrator and the nanny/maid Nelly - I cannot understand at all. The casting crew had a huge talented female pool to choose from but instead they chose a man - albeit a well-known actor - but unfortunately he kept forgetting his lines, and more importantly mixing up everyone's names, as well as his spots and because he kept forgetting characters' name he would slow down or even pause for a few seconds before uttering any of them to make sure he had the right one. I can say the one good thing he brought to the stage was his piano playing.
The language too was a big letdown as it was nothing like the book or even the era – often modern day very strong swearing and 21st century phrasing in a lot of places and even a bit of comedy thrown in throughout – one as a spoof on the fact of a man playing a woman which really pulled the novel’s beautiful content down. All in all, I can only review it as a very big disappointment for the language which should have been heartfelt. Some of the monologues were fantastic and very well delivered but trying to make the nanny/narrator into a comedic role spoilt the entire play. I'm sure Emily Bronte would be disappointed to see her novel relegated to wanting to please the masses rather than staying true to her ideal. There were several school groups in when I was in the audience and they seemed to be the only ones laughing at the comedic twists – the rest of us who obviously knew the novel well sat stony-faced.
The effects were amazing though - lighting, 'real' rain falling on the stage - and large droplets even splashing on those in the front row who were quite surprised to find themselves part of the props - and huge fans blowing on the audience so you really felt you were in the middle of a storm on the windswept moors. The lighting was brilliant too – setting the mood perfectly. I could only give high praise to those behind the scenes and the two leads and other minor roles. Some of the costumes were more modern, while others of the period. It was quite a mish-mash for someone who loves the novel and expected to be taken into 19th century England rather than the imagination of a 21st century script writer.
I’ve never been in a play/musical/show with such a small smattering of applause both at the interval and at the end. It was obvious the audience wasn’t impressed.
In future, when putting on one of the classics, please keep the language and content true to the era, unless you are actually trying to bring it into this day and age – and if you do, please forewarn us so the audience is prepared to see something quite different from what they’re expecting.