Wuthering Heights

It was wet but not wuthering for the first installment of Lytham Hall's open-air theatre season says Stephanie Cottle

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On Sunday 12 June Lytham Hall opened its gates to the public for the first of four productions this summer – Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, adapted for the theatre by award-winning writer Laura Turner and brought to stage by the Chapterhouse Theatre Company from Lincoln.

Throughout the day the rain had been relentless but with the event’s website stating “cancelled only in the event of a hurricane!” the show went on. The British summer provided a fittingly bleak and dreary backdrop to Brontë’s account of love, loss and despair on the Yorkshire Moors. Despite the rain theatre-goers had turned out in their waterproofs and wellingtons to hunker down, with their picnics and prosecco, for the evening of entertainment. Audience numbers were not disappointing.

As with most open-air productions a simplistic set was adequate, but elements of the backdrop (namely an enormous plastic tree) distracted from the beautiful scenery of Lytham Hall. Perhaps more efforts could have been made to adapt the play to its surroundings. There was no shortage of withered and decaying vegetation that could have been harnessed.

Despite this, the performers provided a gripping and powerful enactment of the two families caught in the webs of Catherine and Heathcliff’s fiery romance. True to the novel, the characters on stage were in no way to be admired. Cathy and Heathcliff are almost infuriatingly headstrong and the two actors gave a convincing portrayal of a fatal combination – inexperience and overwhelming passion. Tensions in the performance reflected the ominous rain clouds above and chemistry between the six actors seemed electric as the night drew in and the violence of the tale reached its peak.

Overall the event was a great success for Chapterhouse and Lytham Hall. The beauty and warm welcome into the grounds combined with the whirlwind tale of lost love made for a romantic evening of open-air theatre.

Lytham Hall’s outdoor theatre season continues with three performances by the Illyria company – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Friday 1 July, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore, 10 July and Danny Champion of the World, 28 August

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Wuthering Heights

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