The Full Brontë
Reviewed – 31st October 2018
“I’d be lying if I suggested it was absolutely unmissable, it is ultimately worth a watch”
Charlotte, Emily, Anne: three sisters whose literary works are read and respected far beyond the confines of the Yorkshire parsonage where they were written. The Brontës have never been short of admirers, and to this day they are the recipients of a diverse range of tributes. They have motivated writers, captivated academics, inspired comedic cabarets based on their life and work…
Yes, you read that correctly. Not to be outdone by her predecessors, local thespian Maria (Rebecca Mordan) decides to stage her own tribute to the famous sisters, an evening of poetry reading, dramatic re-enactments, and the all-important rendition of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. With a little help from her backstage “crew”, Brannie (Sharon Andrew), Maria has no doubt that she can do her heroes justice. Probably. Hopefully. Well, let’s see how it goes.
Maria and Brannie are characters you’ve probably seen before. The spoilt actor/exasperated assistant duo is an overused trope, but the chemistry of Mordan (who wrote the show) and Andrew (who directs) rescues it from dullness. The pompous and egotistical Maria is never funnier than when she is up against Brannie’s deadpan belligerence. Their tumultuous relationship is the loose thread on which the cabaret numbers are strung, making Maria’s attempts at profundity seem all the more laughable. Although there is a set routine – the highlight of which is a furious debate as to whether the sisters could be considered heroes of Cornwall instead of Yorkshire – improvised moments make the often disorganised show more engaging. Mordan is particularly good at this, commenting on The Space’s location in Isle of Dogs (‘No stealing, we’re not quite in Canary Wharf’) and the size of the audience (‘small…but perfectly formed’). The show feels very at home in The Space, the stage of which is covered in homemade props and packets of crisps that provide a glimpse into the cabaret’s fraught production.
Unfortunately, this is not enough to stop some of the jokes falling flat and a few of the improvised moments feeling a bit awkward. Mordan’s performance in particular feels somewhat overblown; it does suit her character, but is nonetheless a bit excessive at times. It could also benefit from some deeper references beyond Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The life and work of the Brontë sisters seems more of an excuse for the comedic routine than the thing that drives it, and although the jokes are mainly tied to the source material they still feel a little detached from it. But this is only relevant in so far as it would provide extra material for more these two obviously talented performers to work with. Literary tributes come in all shapes and sizes, and it would be wrong to discount this one because of its irreverence.
The Full Brontë is a fun and entertaining show that asks us not to take our literary heroes so seriously. And, though I’d be lying if I suggested it was absolutely unmissable, it is ultimately worth a watch.
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Photography courtesy Scary Little Girls
The Full Brontë
The Space until 3rd November
Previously reviewed at this venue: