The trees are up and the lights are twinkling, but before dusting off our favourite Christmas jumpers and going into full festive mode, we had a final bauble-free night out to see Wuthering Heights at York Theatre Royal. And boy is it worth booking a babysitter for. My recollection of the story was as clear as a foggy night on the Yorkshire Moors in which it’s set – a misty memory of darkness and tragedy. With the Emma Rice treatment, the Emily Bronte tale becomes something bigger, bolder and – dare we suggest – more enjoyable and hopeful than the book on which it’s based. It’s easier to follow, too, with the characters providing frequent, funny updates on who’s who, who’s dead now and how many days/weeks/years have passed since the last scene.
While the fraught relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine – Yorkshire’s very own Romeo and Juliet – is at its heart, the peripheral characters, from Craig Johnson’s doom-mongering doctor to Katy Owen’s wonderfully feeble Little Linton, bring a welcome levity and balance to their emotional turmoil. Amusing and admirably irreverent in places, there are some lines that my friend and I will be quoting to each other for some time (although not when our kids are in earshot – this is not a production for young children).
The entire cast is exceptional, deftly turning their hands from singing to dancing and even puppetry. Add to that a live band, clever costumes and spectacular set design, and Wuthering Heights is a real treat for theatre lovers who’ve been missing their seats in the stalls. It’s an intense, heart-wrenching experience that you just won’t get sitting on the sofa at home. And for all you fans of the festivities, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s even a Christmas scene, complete with carols. No excuses – catch it while you can.