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Wuthering Heights - Inspector Sands Review

Inspector Sands team up with China Plate, Royal and Derngate and Oxford Playhouse to present an inventive and engaging new production of Emily Brontë's iconic novel Wuthering Heights. 

Adapted for this production by Ben Lewis and director Lucinka Eisler, the pair manage to channel elements of the original novel of sweeping romance with the backdrop of darkness and give it a fresh new working that is accessible and compelling to a 2023 audience.

 Ike Bennett and Lua Bairstow in Wuthering Heights. Photo by Alex Brenner

Central to this production is Giulia Innocenti's magnificent Nelly, a maid who has major involvement in everyone's stories. Having Giulia's Nelly directly address the audience with key information and dates helps set the tone throughout with other characters chirping in from the wings, both encouraging and demeaning her. Her performance is brilliant, especially as she watches on whilst relationships form or break.

The great romance of Heathcliff and Catherine is played out superbly by Ike Bennett and Lua Bairstow. Bennett is commanding as Heathcliff, growing and growing more into the controlling 'monster' that he becomes in the second act. Bairstow is always a breath of fresh air whilst on stage. They are compelling to watch, both vulnerable and full of heart, whilst ghostly watching on in the second act.

John Askew does some great work as Hindley who becomes an angry drunk besotted with the bottle, Askew does fine work as illiterate Hareton creating a warm romance with Young Cathy. Leander Deeny excels in switching between Earnshaw, Edgar and Linton. He switches cleverly between Edgar and Linton using his suit jacket that is removed for a cape and mask to show the playful youngster. Whilst Nicole Sawyerr captures Isabella and Frances well but her best work comes as Young Cathy.

John Askew, Ike Bennett, Nicole Sawyerr and Lua Bairstow in Wuthering Heights. Photo by Alex Brenner
Jamie Vartan's bleak design allows for the darker themes of the production to play out. The use of a ladder for a balcony above the main stage is effective particularly as characters die. The use of photographs forming a family tree on the backdrop which are placed and removed at birth and death is a stroke of genius and helps identify the characters and the relationships as often actors play a couple of parts. The costumes mix contemporary clothes such as a Darth Vader T-shirt with perilous dress.

The bleakness of the production is helped by excellent sound by Elena Pena and Dan Balfour. There's a use of a variety of sounds including bird song, wind and music that create a great atmosphere. The atmosphere is aided further by Ben Ormerod's stark lighting design which adds tension

There are a few perplexing decisions at play, including the use of microphones and some lip-syncing to the actor's own voices which is always a bit out of time. It is also difficult to get a sense of the location as the set remains pretty much the same, there’s no real sense bar a little bit of wind of the moors themselves or the mysterious surroundings of Wuthering Heights.

The magnetic performances here keep you engrossed, even as the action loses it way a little for a time post interval. All in all this is a superb re-invention of the story, honouring the poetic language of Brontë’s novel and thrusting it into this highly watchable and engaging production. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wuthering Heights continues at Royal and Derngate in Northampton until Saturday 6th May. Tickets are available from The show then visits Oxford Playhouse (9th - 13th May, Warwick Arts Centre (16th - 18th May), The Rose Kingston (23rd - 27th May) and Northern Stage (6th - 10th June). Full tour details and booking information from 

Lua Bairstow, Ike Bennett and Giulia Innocenti in Wuthering Heights. Photo by Alex Brenner

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