Brontë – REVIEW
Image: Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou (Emily), Aneeka Brownsberger (Charlotte), and Rebecca Harris (Anne) in BRONTË, Genesian Theatre. Photo: Craig O’Regan

Brilliant. Truly engrossing from beginning to end. This is one of the Genesian Theatres best productions yet, despite – or perhaps because of – an unvarying set, no real costume changes, a scattering of props and some subtle theatrical devices. Its very simplicity allows the powerful dialogue and performances to stand out in bold relief – which they do. 

BRONTË, Genesian Theatre. Photo: Craig O’Regan

Brontë was written by British director and playwright, Polly Teale, whose other works include a scripted version of Jane Eyre (1998), and the play and novel, After Mrs Rochester (2003) which is a sort of prequel to Jane Eyre. So clearly, Teale is a Brontë aficionado, and it shows in the writing. 

While the narrative is fictional, the details are based on fact with a very intuitive understanding of the Brontë family and the Victorian era. 

Gregory George as Patrick Brontë in BRONTË, Genesian Theatre. Photo: Craig O’Regan
Theo Rule as Branwell in BRONTË, Genesian Theatre. Photo: Craig O’Regan

The play actually begins as if it is a theatre rehearsal; the actors run in and start putting on their costumes on stage. This concept is never returned to, so it’s unclear why it was ever used. The setting is the Brontë house, sparsely decorated with framed windows and door at the back and canvas screen on the right hand side which, when backlit, partly reveals a bedroom. 

The sisters are: Charlotte (Aneeka Brownsberger), Emily (Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou) and Anne (Rebecca Harris). They are wearing identical dresses, each in a slightly different colour. The three actors have a wonderful chemistry together while also having distinct individual strengths. 

Theo Rule is Branwell, the one Brontë son who was the light and hope of the family due to his maleness, but a great disappointment due to his penchant for opium and sex. 

Gregory George as Patrick Brontë is stoic, wise, and has a paternal warmth. 

BRONTË, Genesian Theatre. Photo: Craig O’Regan

Theo Hatzistergos and Georgia Jarrett play various characters including fictional characters. One of the clever devices employed is when a Brontë sister reads dialogue from a novel she is writing and either Jarrett or Hatzistergos takes on that character and speaks the words simultaneously. 

Barry Nielsen has done a wonderful job directing this play with restraint that gives it a rumbling tension. 

Special mention should be made of Michael Schell’s lighting design which is used masterfully to create atmosphere and highlight plot points and emotional spikes. 

Until July 22

Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent St, Sydney

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