REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL

By: Jun. 27, 2022

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views

Saturday 25th June 2022, 7:30pm, Roslyn Packer Theatre

Emme Hoy's adaptation of Anne Brontë's THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL, ensures the essence of the early feminist novel remains while reinforcing the continuing need for sisterhood solidarity and support for women needing to escape from abusive environments. Under Jessica Arthur's direction, a Victorian aesthetic is combined with a more contemporary speech pattern to provide a visually elegant work that remains relatable to the 21st century audience.

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views
Tuuli Narkle in Sydney Theatre Company's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 2022. Photo: Prudence Upton

While Anne Brontë's novel, first published in 1848, separates the story into three distinct parts with the first and second components presenting the events after and before the mysterious single mother takes up occupancy of the long empty manor home and the third addressing the resulting events once her backstory has been exposed, Hoy runs the enigmatic Helen's (Tuuli Narkle) past and present in tandem. This serw Helen to tell more of her own story while also highlighting the similarities in her old and new life, reinforcing that many of the behaviors of both the men and the women in the story were not unique, from the boorish misogynistic men, obnoxious and acid tongued money hungry debutantes and mild and conservative women that remained constrained by society's expectations that they be subservient.

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views
Nikita Waldron, Anthony Taufa, Tuuli Narkle and Eliza Scott in Sydney Theatre Company's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 2022. Photo: Prudence Upton

Set Designer Elizabeth Gadsby has opted to keep the set relatively simple with an expression of the grey stone manor homes of both Wildfell Hall and Grassdale sitting atop the turntable stage to allow a view to events outside the grand houses and within their walls. Gadsby refrains from trying to replicate any expression of the countryside on which these homes sit, allowing the audience's imagination to fill in the gaps while also ensuring that the broader scene isn't central to the human stories that unfold. Trent Suidgeest's lighting design captures the changing light of sunny picnic weather, diming dusk and candlelight with an interesting visual expression of the sense of foreboding. Clemence Williams' sound design and compositions straddle a sense of old world and contemporary as they overlay the scenes with many being performed live by Eliza Scott.

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views
Steve Rodgers, Tara Morice, Remy Hii, Eliza Scott, Danielle Catanzariti, Nikita Waldron and Anthony Taufa in Sydney Theatre Company's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 2022. Photo: Prudence Upton

Jessica Arthur's direction ensures that Tuuli Narkle captures Helen's strength while holding an air of mystery. Narkle's Helen remains a likeable character in the face of the awful treatment she endured, the misogynistic behavior from the men and obnoxious insulting behavior from one of the women in her circles. She exudes the caring protective mother along with a resilience that enabled her to go against social expectations and the law.

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views
Ben O'Toole and Tuuli Narkle in Sydney Theatre Company's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 2022. Photo: Prudence Upton

Remy Hii's portrayal of the Lindenhope farmer Gilbert Markham shows the young man's evolution from being more absorbed in his own opinions and entertaining the unkind commentary of the likes of the spiteful Eliza Millward (Nikita Waldron) to becoming more considerate and understanding of newcomer Helen and her son Arthur (Danielle Catanzariti). Hii ensures that there are initial similarities with the elder Arthur Huntingdon (Ben O'Toole) though while Arthur senior refuses to change his ways to the bitter end, Gilbert choses to change his ways.

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views
Eliza Scott, Tuuli Narkle and Nikita Waldron in Sydney Theatre Company's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 2022. Photo: Prudence Upton

The remainder of the cast double characters that have similarities with their alternates in Helen's other life. Tara Morice gives Helen's Aunt, with whom she lives till her marriage to Arthur, and Gilbert's mother Mrs Markham a disapproving severity while her expression of Helen's maid Rachel is presented with a compassion and concern. As Frederick Lawrence and Lord Lowborough, Antony Taufa lends a softer tone as the landlord of Wildfell Hall and the reformed quiet husband of the obnoxious Annabelle (Nikita Waldron). Eliza Scott presents a quieter type of Victorian woman who was resigned to only being viewed in her role in relation to men, either as a subservient wife or an unwed woman of an age where it was believed she would no longer marry in the form of Milicent Hattersley and Mary Millward respectively. Scott's performance has a sincerity that makes the reveal of both young ladies' strength and solidarity with Helen even more powerful. The characters of Milicent and Mary, along with Rachel, are starkly contrasted with Nikita Waldron's calculated Eliza Millward and Annabella Willmont. While the rest of the performers balance a naturalness into their expressions, regardless of how absurd the characters and text feels in the modern world, Waldron overplays her roles with a more forced and unconvincing cadence that detaches the characters from the possibility of being relatable, ensuring they are thoroughly unlikable.

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views
Tuuli Narkle and Danielle Catanzariti in Sydney Theatre Company's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 2022. Photo: Prudence Upton

THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL is an intriguing mystery that shines light on the importance of treating people with respect and dignity along with the degree to which society has changed, and hasn't, its view on marriage, fidelity and most importantly, the treatment of women. Well crafted to appeal to the trend for period dramas while having a contemporary voice, this work holds messages that remain almost two centuries later.

https://www.sydneytheatre.com.au/whats-on/productions/2022/the-tenant-of-wildfell-hall

REVIEW: EMME HOY'S Adaptation Of THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL Balances The Gravity Of Anne Brontë's Work With A Humour That Sees The Absurdity Of Outdated Views
Ben O'Toole ad Tuuli Narkle in Sydney Theatre Company's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 2022. Photo: Prudence Upton



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