Devised and performed by: Angus Barr and Sarah Corbett
Director: Ed Rapley (with additional direction by Brenda Waite and Susie Donkin)
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
With as much of a nod to the austere early 19th Century existence on the Yorkshire moors of the Brontëfamily as to 20th Century gothic horror movies, We Are Brontëis physical theatre at its most superb, and its most silly.
If it had been any other two performers they would never have got away with it. But Angus Barr and Sarah Corbett are uniquely captivating, as they deliver their straight-faced, irreverent, imaginary deconstruction of the lives of two of Yorkshire’s most famous siblings. Frequently ignoring the fourth wall, slipping in and out of character, and sometimes even bickering between themselves, the two intertwine scenes from their lives on the bleak, windswept moors with scenes and characters from some of their most famous books.
Entering the stage dressed in austere monochrome, with cadaverous features and almost insane expressions, the creaking, musty underground vaults at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter become part of the eerie, gothic atmosphere which forms the perfect backdrop as the performance begins.
Sarah Corbett is mesmerising. With drawn features and gaunt complexion, she maintains an expressionless, unearthly stare throughout, vacantly focused somewhere above and beyond the audience. Her awkward, jerky movements are almost zombie-like. Angus Barr, creepily detached somehow, with wild Heathcliff hair and ghostly white complexion, provides much of the narrative to the production and all the other rôles, including prop man to the increasingly erratic, constantly fainting – or dying – Corbett.
There are some fantastically funny moments from the physical performances and the use of props. The grinding drudgery of their monotonous, bleak moors existence is hilariously demonstrated as they struggle to hang out washing in the harsh winds – only to finish just as it starts to rain. “Water” (or is it cling film?) flows from a tap for washing. There is a perfect reconstruction of a gothic mansion with creepy corridors, attics, staircases and locked, and triple-locked, doors – all played out between the two with barely more than an unattached door knob. The sound support, cued from the stage by Barr is also crucial to the production.
However, superb performances aside, it does feel like there is something missing with We Are Brontë.The production is episodic with little continuity to link the events together. This lack of substance, and sometimes inexplicable events, means the production falls short of completeness and at only 60 minutes there seems plenty of scope to develop this. The very pleased audience would have certainly have been happy for more.
Runs until Saturday 27th June 2015.