Music by Christopher Ash Book and lyrics by Carl Miller.
Southwark Playhouse, the Large, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD to 6 October,
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Tues & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 40 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7207 0234.
Review: William Russell 15 September.
Three weird sisters and a dissolute brother
The conceit behind this entertaining, tuneful and totally bonkers musical about the Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell is that they were the equivalent of a rock band. The result is what we get is a very long rock concert. The songs are frequently very good, the cast led by Natasha Barnes as Charlotte are terrific, and the band under Joe Bunker could not be bettered. But it does go on for far too long.
The sisters have not even started to write the books which made them famous by the end of the first half and the second half, in which everyone dies, ends with a rather modish assertion to justify the title – these were wasted lives. To have produced two of the greatest novels in the English language, as well as some fine poems and several more books is not exactly a waste of one’s life. Arguably had they been born today they might have lived longer but art is inspired by the environment in which one grows up so maybe the books would not have been written and all the rest. The title really is pointless.
What is needed is some brisk use of the blue pencil to cut the thing down to size. Director Adam Lenson has indulged the piece shamelessly, albeit with some style. The setting is stark, a bare platform backed by the band, some stairs for people to ascend and in the middle of the stage a point into which the cast insert the cables for their microphones. That these cables do not end inextricably tangled is a tribute to some pretty stiff drilling of where people go.
The concept is silly, but entertaining. Ms Barnes makes a delightful warm Charlotte, while there is a splendid wild child crazy from a whey faced Siobhan Athwal as Emily – the moorland duet with her dog is a very special moment – Molly Lynch is touching as Anne lamenting that in Haworth there is nobody to marry and Matthew Jacobs Morgan creates a rather good rotter as brother Branwell.
But it really does not throw any new light on the sisters’ lives. That said, the music is tuneful, and the lyrics, when they can be made out, are witty and to the point. The trouble is the book which just goes on and on and on. Reduced to around 90 minutes with possibly no interval it could be an evening to remember for all the right reasons. As it is one remembers it as one of those interminable nights.
Charlotte Bronte: Natasha Barnes.
Emily Bronte: Siobhan Athwal.
Anne Bronte: Molly Lynch.
Branwell Bronte: Matthew Jacobs Morgan.
Director: Adam Lenson.
Musical Director: Joe Bunker.
Set & Costume Designer: Libby Todd.
Lighting Designers: Matt Daw & Sam Waddington.
Sound Designer: Mike Thacker for Orbital.
Movement Director: Natasha Harrison.
Voice & Dialect Coach: Izo Fitzroy.
Production photographs: Jane Yeah