Growing up with a parent vastly fond of the Brontë sisters’ writing, I – consequently – was not. Jane Eyre always seemed to me a tale so miserable it was barely worth telling, and Wuthering Heights I just found frightening. So much violence roared around the walls of its remote farmhouse that I could barely hear myself think.
They felt, to me, stories of women confined. And they were. The Brontës led short, fairly brutal lives marred by the death of their mother at a young age, two of their sisters in childhood, and their brother Branwell of alcoholism and drug addiction. It is both unsurprising and entirely understandable that they produced works which are, at turns, bleak, lonely and moderately horrifying.
So frank curiosity, fuelled in part by a drama about the Brontës which aired over Christmas (To Walk Invisible – for enquiring minds..) and the slow rehabilitation of Jane Eyre into my affections, led me to We Are Brontë – a show which refutes synopsis. No, literally – the VAULT website just carries reviews and a short video.
I’m not going to be much help on that front either, as this piece is… bizarre. Wonderfully so. It’s entirely strange, and weirdly charming – yawing from moments of simply executed but poignant visual beauty, to wry self-commentary. Angus Barr and Sarah Corbett frequently undercut their own process; almost losing the audience, only to frankly own up to it and abruptly change course.
Much like a Brontë novel, the piece takes its time, with an occasional moment rearing up to sort of pierce you in the heart (as the appearance of Rochester’s string metaphor in literal form did for me), before vanishing in a cloud of tuberculosis and cling film tears.
With its lovingly crafted sound design often clashing with its deliberately staccato nature, We Are Brontë is a show that slowly grows on you while you’re distracted and, if nothing else, the obligatory Kate Bush moment may just win you over.
We Are Brontë is on at the Vaults until 5th February 2017. Click here for more details.