Isabella at Theatre Utopia
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights immortalised Heathcliff and Cathy’s tempestuous relationship upon the windswept Yorkshire moors, but what of the novel’s supporting characters? Theatre collective The Idle Hour has chosen Isabella Linton, the younger sister of Catherine’s husband Edgar, as the protagonist of their latest production.
Isabella is often overlooked, seeming less interesting than the stormy Catherine; the play proves this view is undeserved. Hopelessly in love with Heathcliff, she becomes his wife only to realise that he will never love anything or anyone but Catherine and that, worse still, Isabella is a pawn in his diabolical plan to bring her family to ruin. Caught between the others’ selfish manipulations she seems the only innocent.
Combining choice lines from the source text with stunning original writing (“You were my sun, Catherine, but the day is over,” says Heathcliff), Isabella manages to capture the raw energy of childhood and the world-ending importance of its characters’ ups and downs. The theatre company proves that well-placed moments of silence can be brutally effective.
The production features a capable troupe of five, but it is Anya Williams in the titular role who deserves special mention. She is nuanced, subtle, blithely energetic and uses her voice with sensitivity to the small space.
For audience members who aren’t familiar with the book, this play might be a little difficult to follow. The importance of the smaller parts are lost in such a condensed format and the nature of some of the relationships don’t get a chance to be properly established. But for those who do know the novel, it’s clear that writer and director Laurie Brook Summers has picked out this story with care and intuition. It will make audience members want to dig out their own battered copy for another read.
Isabella is a tale of love at its cruelest played out among the heather, but not as you know it.
Photo: Laurie B Summers
Isabella is at Theatre Utopia from 24th until 27th November 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Isabella here: