There’s a new Brontë show on the block as The Moors makes its UK debut at Islington’s Hope Theatre this month – 11 October to 5 November.
We caught up with director Phil Bartlett to find out more about the production.
The Moors sees its UK professional premiere, and is inspired by the letters of Charlotte Brontë. Why do the Brontës continue to have a hold on us?
I don’t claim to be any kind of Brontë expert, though I did study some of the better-known novels for my English degree some years ago, and in preparation for The Moors I read both Villette and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
I think so many characters, plots and images from their stories are deep-rooted in our national culture, though – even if you’ve never picked up one of their books, the mad woman in the attic and Cathy at the window are likely to be familiar.
So many of the themes too – gender, class, isolation, intelligent women striving for satisfaction, doomed Gothic romance – remain such rich ingredients for gripping storytelling.
Gothic, irreverent, macabre, and queer are all terms used in the description of the show. How are all these styles and influences pulled together?
On one level, The Moors is a wonderfully sharp pastiche of some of the plots and tropes of the Brontë sisters’ novels, but it’s also an original story in its own right with one foot firmly in the present.
If you’re familiar with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights there’ll be plenty you recognise, but there’s really no need to have read any of these books to be drawn in to Jen Silverman’s Gothic tale.
To say too much about the queer and macabre elements would be to spoil the story, but I promise you it’s full of twists and is a perfect story for autumn when the nights are drawing in!
The Hope is a space which can accommodate almost any kind of small-scale production and is deeply atmospheric. Did this impact the programming of The Moors?
I took over as artistic director at the Hope a year ago and when I applied for the role one of the productions I pitched was The Moors, so I’m delighted it’s the first play I’m directing myself at the venue.
As you say, the Hope is such an atmospheric space and it felt like the perfect location for a story about six characters who are each, in different ways, trapped – I’m really looking forward to seeing how audiences respond to being immersed in such a big story in our intimate room.
Charlotte is perhaps the best-known and least eccentric of the Brontë siblings. How do her letters influence the play?
Jen Silverman, the writer of The Moors, has spoken previously about how she was reading Charlotte’s letters when she began working on the play – and specifically how Charlotte would write about the moors in her letters almost like the landscape was a member of the family.
We’ve tried to capture a sense of how pervasive the landscape is to the characters of the play by having it literally invade the set in places – but to find out exactly what this means, you’ll have to come along to a performance!
Read reviews of other Brontë shows on this website.