Review: The Brontës – A Musical (online)

An epic musical available on-demand from The Space, The Brontës is the latest depiction of the famed Yorkshire family of writers in the 19th century.

As the storm rages around the Haworth Parsonage, the Rev Patrick Brontë and his children Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell read, write and create within a strange, plain setting.

Showing in its European premiere, Prudencia Productions (in their debut production) have caught the tensions and female strength of this story. Victoria Hadel directs with flair as the brief lives and fame of the siblings is explored.

There’s a fine cast: Anya Williams (Charlotte), Megan Henson (Emily), James Tudor Jones (Branwell), Emma Cobby (Anne), with Kevin Murohey, Aaran Parry and Lucie Neale. Writers Katie Palmer, Lucas Lucas Tahiruzzaman Syed, Sarah Zeigler are on board with the worlds in which the Brontës live and imagine, and create a show where the siblings love and support each other.

Production image from The Brontes a Musical

The songs are often pieces for the whole ensemble, sometimes solos, and they both push the plot forward and act as commentary on what we have just seen. They also have a modern feel but not enough to move this from traditional musical theatre styles (other musicals which have tackled the Brontë story have been more experimental: see Wasted, I Am No Bird or Glass Town). The play itself thrives on a heightened style which is convincingly delivered.

Charlotte the pragmatist, Emily the maternalistic, Anne the peacemaker are caricatures we have seen before in other adaptations of the family story. These sisters are independent and ambitious, although as we know fate decrees short lives for all of them and only a brief time outside the Parsonage walls.

Branwell’s catastrophic love affair and thwarted career as a painter, and the novels which gave the sisters their immortal reputation, are all here, wrapped in lush melodies and watched over by a version of the famous family portrait where the brother painted himself out.

Charlotte and Anne’s first visit to London is depicted with wit and affection, while Emily’s love for the outdoors is delivered by a passionate solo number.

This is a strong, character-driven piece which thrives in the bleakness of the Yorkshire Moors and the stifling atmosphere at Haworth. At 150 minutes it does require concentration and an interest in the subject, but if you are at all interested in the topic or the novels, you will appreciate the effort put into delivering this show.

The Brontës – A Musical is available on-demand at The Space until 5 September – purchase your ticket here.