The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Butterfly Psyche on tour

tenantTHERE’s a Bronte Season going on, organised by south west based Butterfly Psyche and Livewire theatre and directed by Shane Morgan and Jazz Hazelwood.

It involves Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, all newly and inventively adapted (by Dougie Blaxland and Alison Farina) and performed by one or two actors.

We caught up with the least known, Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall, at Bath Rondo, where it is performed by Madelaine Ryan and Tom Turner, with music specially composed by Wasuremono, a Bradford-on-Avon trio which includes Madelaine.

The book, first published in 1848, quickly sold out and was hailed as the first truly feminist novel. A reprint was rapidly arranged but blocked by Charlotte, apparently to protect her younger sister’s reputation.

A mysterious widow moves in to the run down Wildfell Hall with her young son, and the interest of the village, and especially young farmer Gilbert, is aroused.

Before long, vicious rumours start, and Gilbert is desolated when “Mrs Graham” leaves. But by then he knows her story, and can do nothing but wait.

In the Butterfly Psyche adaptation, the two actors take on the central roles and those of friends and family with great panache, much to the delight of the audience as they flick from a crotchety aunt to a flighty temptress, a gossiping lordling to a crusty farmer, all in the wink of an eye in the intimacy of the Rondo.

Alison Farina’s sparse adaptation brilliantly encompasses the novel’s then-scandalous look at the state of marriage.

If this show is anything to go by, I would urge you to try to see all three, at Bath, Bristol or Radstock, in the coming weeks.



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