Name three Brontë novels...Jane Eyre....Wuthering Heights...yes? Something that Anne wrote? Anne, you say, who's Anne?
You know Anne, the youngest Brontë, author of two novels, passionate feminist, spinster, and generally nice girl. What novels?
Rebecca Roberts will bring Anne Brontë to life in September in our production of Brontë, and, Rebecca reassures us, after seeing this production, the youngest Brontë will no longer rest in the shadow of her older sisters.
Above: Rebecca Roberts dons her costume for Anne - being fitted by costume designer Carolyn Taylor-Smith.
Below: Patrick (Ron Kelly ), Branwell (Kevin Spink), Anne (Rebecca Roberts), and Charlotte (Hannah Levien) rehearse a scene as the young Bronte family
At the age of nineteen, Anne left Haworth and worked as a governess from 1839 to 1845. All three Brontë sisters spent time working as governesses or teachers. They all had difficulty controlling their charges, coping with homesickness, and gaining support from their employers. Anne was the only one who was able to persevere, and was successful in her work.
After leaving her teaching position, she published a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, 1846), and, in short succession, she wrote two novels. Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was published in 1848. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was an immediate success.
Who knows what she may have achieved had she not succumbed to the plague of the family, tuberculosis, when she was twenty-nine years old.
Who was Anne Brontë?
Anne was a woman in possession of strong feminist sensibilities, maturity and wisdom, and a ripe social conscience.
She was a practical, grounded woman and her writing reflects this. Anne wrote to change the world, to reveal the truth about society as she saw it. Her writing is vastly different from the ‘airy-fairy' writing of her two sisters.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is arguably the most shocking of the Brontë novels. In seeking to highlight social truths as she saw it, Anne's depiction of alcoholism and domestic violence was profoundly disturbing to nineteenth-century readers and still shocks with contemporary relevance today.
Below: In rehearsal - Emily (Kathryn Marquet) and Anne (Rebecca Roberts) try to control their brother, Branwell (Kevin Spink) - believed to be the inspiration for much of Anne's writings on addiction and the treatment of women.
Tell us about playing Anne Brontë...
Playing a character that has lived is a fascinating process. It is a wonderful journey to discover what her life was like. Knowing that so little information of her actually remains has, in many ways, given me creative license to make original decisions about this intelligent and beautiful soul.
I hope that, by the end of our season of Brontë, people will know more about Anne and the way in which she viewed life. I hope the audience will not see her as the background sister, but as a woman who burned to better the world, particularly the world for women, through her writing.
Below: In rehearsal - Anne (Rebecca Roberts) tells Charlotte (Hannah Levien) and Emily (Kathryn Marquet) about her experiences as a governess.
Having ploughed through most of the Brontë works this year, I can reassure you that the Tenant is a particularly good read. Go on, I dare you to read it.
Cheers - Kathryn Marquet