Peter McMaster: Wuthering Heights

Wuthering-Heights-Photo-Niall-WalkerOne of the greatest qualities in a performer is the ability to laugh at himself, exposing himself to ridicule – to dive completely into the work to be done not caring about stereotypes or judgments.

This is also one of the greatest qualities of Wuthering Heights, in which Peter McMaster stages this iconic novel using four male performers (the director himself plus Gary Gardiner, Nick Anderson, and Murray Wason), telling us the story through the eyes of four of its characters: Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff, Nelly Dean (the Earnshaw’s servant, and main narrator of the Bronte original), and Heathcliff’s horse.

Near the beginning of the show we are presented with a hilarious choreography for Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, which immediately transports us to the universe of these characters, as seen by the performers. And this is what seems to be the soul of this play: a rich and unpretentious way of retelling this iconic novel, accompanied by an innate sense of humour in both the direction and the performance.

This piece brings to the theatrical world onstage our experience of the virtual world – an eclectic mix of impressions where nothing is sacred, everything is up for interpretation. The novel and its core story are reinvented every minute; a scenically strong and idiosyncratically realised interpretation.

The aesthetic choices, whether dramaturgical, visual or aural, gain strength through utter simplicity: for example, in the pose that instantly transforms the actor to a horse. The shabby dresses of the ‘female’ characters are delightful. And gluing together all these choices is the soundtrack, exclusively using the songs of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights LP, which is not only consistent with the postmodern pot-pourri mode of creation, and the company’s appreciation of kitsch, but undoubtedly a good bet given the Kate Bush hysteria sweeping the country in the light of her imminent live performances.

Wuthering Heights is, without any question, one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2014 Fringe.