Review: Cathy: A Retelling of Wuthering Heights

Eleanor Antoniou 20 November 2018

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Michael Bascom’s haunting musical adaption of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, directed by Jade Franks, captivates from the opening scene and keeps its audience transfixed until the very end of the tragic love story between Cathy and Heathcliff. These two characters are central  to each other’s very understanding of existence, but Heathcliff’s vengeful and violent nature is never far from the surface of this production.

The beautiful simplicity of the set and costumes are effective in emphasising the passionate emotions running through the play. Against a dark backdrop and white costumes, the only colour present on-stage is the red of the sashes worn by Cathy and Heathcliff, visually uniting them and symbolising the ardent love they feel for each other, the depth of which no other character in the play can fully comprehend. We see Heathcliff untie Cathy’s sash after her death, clutching at it as his heart breaks. This image is later reversed to powerful effect at the end of the play when Cathy’s ghost removes Heathcliff’s sash as he joins her in death, suggesting that the obstacles which separated them in life have now been broken; their love has transcended society, God and even death.

Bascom has composed a highly emotive score for the play, which is performed live, tenderly expressing the passion between Cathy and Heathcliff, a love so deep that it cannot be fully defined using words alone. One notable example is the delicacy and emotion of the music playing whilst Cathy declares her feelings for Heathcliff. The melody intensifies the meaning of her words, undoubtedly affecting every member of the audience.

All five actors give extremely compelling performances, performing with natural chemistry. Maryam Dorudi, as Cathy, performs with admirable passion and spirit, and sings especially beautifully, enchanting the audience with the purity of her voice. William Batty is also outstanding as Heathcliff, successfully conveying the raw emotions felt so strongly by his character. His performance is remarkably effective during the scene of Cathy’s death as he shakes and trembles with sorrow, cradling her body and entwining her hand with his.

After her death, Heathcliff turns mad with grief, the presence of Cathy’s ghost on stage a constant reminder to him and the audience of his longing. In the scene of his own death, it is Cathy’s ghost who will hand him the knife, a striking choice by Bascom and Franks. He collapses next to her body and they are left lying together in a Romeo and Juliet-like death.

William Debnam must also be credited for a wonderful Hindley, bringing an unforgettable energy to the stage. His solo performance of the song ‘A Drinkity Drink’ provides a welcome comedic moment amidst the play’s intense emotion, gaining much genuine laughter from the audience for his animated expression and movement.

Overall, this musical is a highly moving production, brilliantly depicting the tragedy and passion of Brontë’s novel, which is set over 30 years, in a performance which lasts only an hour. The intensity of Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship is successfully portrayed with authentic emotion, leaving the audience compelled to believe that their love exists beyond the ephemeral world; it is their very souls that are connected.