Sunday, September 11, 2016

MISS BRONTE


Written and performed by Mel Dodge,
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
Costume design by Letty Macphedran

Set design by Marisa Cuzzolaro


The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 8th – 10th September


Reviewed by Bill Stephens

This remarkably informative and entertaining little show is touring widely and definitely a “must-see” for Bronte aficionados  and especially for the Bronte-curious.  Written and performed by Mel Dodge, “Miss Bronte” is an engaging look into the lives of the Bronte sisters from the point of view of the last surviving sister, Charlotte, who now lives in an isolated parsonage on the Yorkshire moors with only her father for company.

Mel Dodge as Charlotte Bronte 

The audience enter the theatre to discover a crinoline-clad Charlotte Bronte busily engaged in making notes in a tiny notebook. Every surface in the room she occupies is covered with papers and books. A fire glows in the fireplace, and framed pictures and books adorn the white walls, either side of the fireplace.

As the houselights dim, Charlotte fixes her audience with a steely gaze and addressing them directly, confides that her publisher has asked her to prepare a preface for a reprinted volume of her sister’s novels Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. However, she has challenged herself to write a novel with a heroine “as small and plain as myself”.  

Confiding details of her childhood, and her current situation, she uses toy soldiers to represent each, describing the deaths of her sisters Maria and Elizabeth, who died of tuberculosis in childhood, and of Anne and  Emily, who together with her  dissolute, but adored, brother, Branwell, all died of consumption.

Revealing her secret love for her Belgian teacher, Constantin Heger, to whom she had written love letters for years, she reads excerpts from Jane Eyre to illustrate the similarities of her situation to Jane Eyre’s love for her employer, Mr. Rochester.
Mel Dodge as Charlotte Bronte 

Mel Dodge’s Charlotte is no shrinking violet. Lyndee-Jane Rutherford’s busy direction has her constantly throwing papers in the air, books to the floor, or striding purposefully around the room looking for supporting documentation to support her revelations. The play is crammed with fascinating details, obviously the result of extensive research by Dodge, much of it perhaps more of interest to Brontephiles than the uninitiated.  

But Dodge’s tour-de-force performance, during which her Charlotte covers the whole gamut of emotions, ensures that the constant stream of revelations never becomes tedious. Indeed this superbly crafted little production, with its beautifully realised set and costume, and Dodge’s dazzling performance, is an absorbing example of story-telling at its very best.  

This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.  www.artsreview.com.au




1 comment:

  1. Excellent evocation of the world of the Brontes. The only thing missing was the tininess of the Haworth Parsonage rooms. They are so small it's easy to see why people were going for long walks on the moors.

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