Publick Transport Theatre Company: We Are Brontë reviewed by Rosalind Fairclough
This review was written by a member of the Ilkley Literature Festival review team. The Review Team take part in a special reviewing workshop at the start of the Festival before attending Festival events.
The profession of clowning has a long and noble history. I can’t pretend to understand the principles behind Publick Transport’s physical theatre piece We Are Brontëand at first I thought it was my own ignorance of the Brontës’ body of work that was the problem – but as Brontë fans in the audience piped up with their criticisms, (leading the male actor in the piece to remark, “I think we’re giving that lady her money back”), I began to realise I was not alone.
I had expected a sort of Reduced Shakespeare-type performance centring on the Brontë family and their work. The actors’ innovative use of props (a door made out of a man holding a knocker, a woman sliding along the stage on a piece of fabric as a ghostly apparition) and the set were of a standard commensurate with small-scale high-quality touring theatre. It was the performance itself that seemed strangely ill-placed.
Perhaps there was a mismatch between the craft of the clown and the audience’s expectations, as it was clear that the performers had the physical skills to make this a very dynamic piece. Perhaps it was just one of those off-nights that all performers have, or perhaps this audience was just the wrong fit and another will understand the piece’s intentions more clearly. At the end of the piece the two players mimed racing each other across the moors in a manner that demonstrated that they can do very well indeed, but I’m sorry to say tonight’s performance didn’t wuther my heights.
Rosalind Fairclough read Theatre at Dartington, and is a poet, performer and dog walker whose work has been collected into anthologies by Other Poetry and Otley Word Feast Press. She has been a reviewer for Book Time magazine and for the Ilkley Literature Festival, and enjoys reviewing as a way to sharpen her prose. She gains inspiration for her writing while doing the washing up and walking in the Yorkshire countryside. She suspects some of her poems were found growing near footpaths while out and about and is worried the dog may be a better poet than she is, being so much lower to the ground. Her first pamphlet, The Flank of a Fish, is available from Otley Word Feast Press www.owfpress.com