With only one week left until opening, Hannah Levien, who plays Charlotte, talks about the challenge of playing this legendary woman...
At first, the thought of playing Charlotte Bronte left me quite bewildered. As a young reader, I was never particularly drawn to her famed novel Jane Eyre, and, in fact, found Emily Bronte's wild and volatile Wuthering Heights, much more stimulating. Little did I know this fascination of Emily's literary style and freedom would come to be a hugely significant driving force in the character of Charlotte. Despite my early doubts about playing Charlotte, upon first reading Polly Teale's script, BRONTE, I immediately felt a kinship with the passionate Charlotte. I felt overcome with a wave of empathy- understanding her need to rise above her grievances in a society that placed women in the shadows, her need for recognition and validation, and her tragic flaw of prioritising this need over love for her siblings.
Above: Family relationships grow tense - Charlotte and Branwell (Kevin Spink) tear each other apart.
There are many resoures to draw from about who Charlotte was, and the life she led. Determined from childhood to be ‘forever known', Charlotte was a hoarder of her own letters and diaries- which have preserved the details of her life and character in literary history. However, in my own portrail of Charlotte, I have drawn firstly from Polly Teale's writing, looking for all the links I can make between Charlotte and myself. I then sought to fill in the gaps by reading biographies, letters, and fictional stories about her life, relationships and personality.
Below: In rehearsal - Charlotte hoarded all of her writing
There is no doubt that Charlotte was a woman of enormous character and strength. What she achieved in her short life is truly exceptional. But what is made so clear in Polly Teale's work, and what I hope I bring to my portrail of Charlotte, is her fallibility. That, beneath her achievements and accolades, lives a small girl, terrified of failure and her own short-comings. I hope that Charlotte herself would not object too much to the staging of these less-desirable qualities.
That is not to say that Charlotte never smiles or laughs and it has been a joy to find these times in the play. Some of my favourite moments are when I lie, understood and unjudged, in Emily's lap, when I laugh with Anne as we reminisce about our adventures in London, when Branwell and I climb the ladder of our imaginations. One of my favourite lines in the play happens after my siblings have died, when Charlotte, left only with her successful career, muses, "How diminished are life's adventures when you have lost those who would share our tribulations, our insights, our delights."
Charlotte Bronte is a challenging and empowering role for a young female actor, and I look forward to sharing her with audiences. Thanks to the cast and crew for all their support... for their tribulations, insights and delights.
Thanks lovely Hannah. One week to go - keep you eye out for dress rehearsal shots...
or get your tickets at www.metroarts.com.au