Writers: Kirsty Smith and Kat Rose-Martin
Director: Chantell Walker
Charlotte, Anne and Emily Brontë are not just successful writers – they’re joint owners of a bustling hairdresser’s in the heart of Haworth. The sisters burst onto stage scrapping and fighting with brooms. In the first scene we get an amusing insight into daily life at the salon as they bicker, dance to pop blaring from the radio and roll their eyes at customers on the phone.
Jane Hair: The Brontes Restyled focuses on the budding careers of the writers and celebrates their work in a new and refreshing way. It’s a feminist, quirky reworking that brings each sister instantly to life and makes them equally loveable and flawed.
Elizabeth Gaskell, or “Lizzie G”, has written an article which reveals the real women hiding behind the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Furious at being exposed and slated, the sisters close their salon and focus on getting revenge by writing their own response.
Smith and Martin plunge the sisters right into the modern day as though they were always meant to be here, making this the perfect introduction for those who aren’t familiar with the famous works, while throwing in plenty of in-jokes for keen fans. Charlotte has signed a deal with Netflix, Anne flicks on her iPad when she’s meant to be listening and Bramwell flogs personalised art on Etsy – including tea towels with his own face on.
As the women bicker, share inside jokes and lovingly tease their hometown, their sisterly bond is thoroughly believable. Joelle Brabban is great as quick-to-anger and fiercely defensive Emily, Stephanie Rutherford ensures no one will forget or underestimate passionately feminist Anne in the future, and Keeley Lane captivates as Charlotte, the overprotective older sibling buckling under the pressure of keeping the family afloat. Charlotte’s insecurities about her crooked teeth and “plain” looks are heartbreaking, and seeing her continuously check her wrinkles and angles in the mirror is a touching detail.
Kevin Jenkins’ salon set design is stunning and inventive, with its purple neon sign and pink shampoo bottles. The sisters’ “towel-ography” is thoroughly entertaining and at one point, Charlotte and Emily blast Anne’s face with hairdryers so that her tresses flutter while she gives a rousing speech about women’s liberation.
Mid-way through the show, though the sisters become so engrossed in writing their rebuttal to Gaskell, there are few reminders of where the play is set besides the illuminated mirrors in the background. It’s a shame there wasn’t more of the hair dye mixing, floor-sweeping and customer-bashing that was so engrossing at the beginning.
It’s thrilling to watch the sisters’ genius brains whirr with new ideas. When the lights turn scarlet as Charlotte begins to describe the red room her new character Jane is locked in, the audience has goosebumps, and when the sisters whoop and cheer at a new idea it’s difficult not to join in. The play carries a heartwarming message; that they simply couldn’t have done it without each other, and that each sister equally deserves to be remembered.
Tours until 7th May 2022