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Bronte, EPPiC Theatre

Ecclesfield Priory Players tackle Polly Teale’s tale of the famous literary family. The three Victorian sisters are living in isolation on the Yorkshire Moors. The claustrophobic atmosphere is heightened by the smallness of the stage.

As the sisters write, their most famous creations come to life. Genisia Kalsi is most effective as both Cathy and Bertha from Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre.

Angela Platts as brooding Emily is the pick of the sisters. Julia Preston is the more outspoken elder sister Charlotte. Chelsea Pearson is the youngest sister, Anne. Alan Frith plays their father, a poor clergyman who nevertheless stocks their library with the finest literary giants. They read Shakespeare, Milton and Byron in addition to the Bible.

The most interesting segment of the play is when all three sisters use the pseudonyms of the Bell brothers. Eventually Charlotte and Anne spill the beans to the publishers who claim that the Bell brothers are one man. The publisher nearly falls off his chair when he learns that the Bell brothers are three different women.

The Bronte family suffered a fair share of tragedy. Tuberculosis was rife and claimed the sisters’ two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth and would later claim Emily, Anne and brother Branwell. Perhaps the emotional fallout of their difficult childhoods created the well received novels.

The play doesn’t follow a chronological structure but flashes forwards and backwards to present more fully rounded characterisations.

Michael Travis is Branwell, the alcoholic black sheep of the family.