Left – Ciume Lochner and Michael Wahr. Photos – Matt Deller
Emily Bronte’s classic tale of Heathcliff and Cathy has been brought to life once again, this time by the creative team at The Australian Shakespeare Company. Set amongst the stunning gardens of Ripponlea Mansion, the scenery adds another element to this tragic story of unrequited love, and the cast make full use of the surroundings, allowing the story to have a more playful narrative.
Traditionally set amongst the British moors, some of the intensity and urgency is lost as the gardens are far too beautiful to evoke any sort of fear of the environment.
However, the talented cast created a sense of imminent danger through solid performances. Michael Wahr as the tortured Heathcliff was perfectly cast in his role as he crawled his way out from under the thumb of Hindley (James Harvy). and into society as a gentleman. Both dashing and slightly terrifying, Wahr managed to keep the audience in the palm of his hand, even when he was doing the most despicable things.
Ciume Lochner as his partner in crime and great love, Cathy, played up to the characters bratty nature and twisted Heathcliff, Hindley and Edgar (Spencer Scholz) around her little finger with her adorably frustrating behaviour.
While the cast were solid, director Greg Carroll has tinkered with the original plot, and the purists out there will not be too accepting of these changes to the beloved story.
Regarded as some of the most passionate lovers of all time Wahr and Lochner maintain Cathy and Heathcliff’s sexual chemistry throughout the production. However, the remaining ensemble is also highly charged and for Wuthering Heights fans, the concept of Edgar passionately kissing Cathy or Hindley and Francis (Rain Fuller) in a steamy embrace is absurd.
There is a lot to like about this production, the gorgeous setting, the timing of the darkness of the plot being entwined with the darkening night sky, wonderful costuming and incredible lighting that brings out the desperation and sadness of Bronte’s characters.
The Australian Shakespeare Company is highly regarded for creating experiences rather than simply productions, and Wuthering Heights is no exception. The few tweaks to the plotline are easily forgiven due to a highly convincing cast and atmospheric setting, however I do highly recommend bring a blanket as it tends to get a bit chilly once the sun goes down!
The Australian Shakespeare Company presents
by Vince Foxall
Directed by Greg Carroll
Venue: Ripponlea Gardens | 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick
Dates: 17 February – 13 March 2014
Tickets: Adults, $45, Concession $40, Groups 10+ $40, Children (5-15years) $25