This weird, wonderful and hilariously awkward comedy presents a mash-up of the lives and stories of the Brontë family through two actors’ very clever use of physical theatre. The sequence of short sketches, at once poking fun at and simultaneously celebrating the Gothic tradition, was beautifully simple and brilliantly original.

We are Brontë was perfectly chaotic: the wigs fell off, the actors died at the wrong moments, and at one point the two actors attached books to their faces before dancing round the stage.

Sarah Corbett and Angus Barr skilfully acted out two clownish, bad actors that try to put on a production on all things Brontë. As might be expected, their attempt at a ‘serious’ play came across more like a series of overdramatic scenes, entirely ridiculous but, for me, great entertainment.

”The characters’ dysfunctional relationship as actors, whether this was shown through lengthy silences or more vocally, added to the humour of the play’’

The fourth wall of the actors’ performance was constantly being broken down with Barr’s pointless and amusing commentary in which he discusses the play. Barr’s character was comparable in his awkwardness to comedians such as David Mitchell, while Corbett’s was more of a highly expressive and almost mute rag-doll with a great passion for acting out dramatic deaths. The characters’ dysfunctional relationship, shown through lengthy silences or more vocally, added to the humour of the play.

”Another impressive feat was their ability to use their bodies, clothes and facial expressions to really convey the sense that the scene was firmly situated in the depths of the very blustery Yorkshire moors’’

The physical theatre was exceptional, most notably when they perfectly managed to create the impression of having a steam train on stage through bizarre dance movements and combined vocal sound effects. Another impressive feat was their ability to use their bodies, clothes and facial expressions to really convey the sense that the scene was firmly situated in the depths of the very blustery Yorkshire moors.

”for me Corbett’s jerky version of the dance was comedy gold and the absolute highlight that had me in stitches’’

However, maybe due to an obsession with the video of Noel Fielding dancing to Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights on some BBC charity show, for me Corbett’s jerky version of the dance was comedy gold and the absolute highlight that had me in stitches.

All of the suspense, drama and nightmarish elements which are fundamental in the Brontë family’s works, as well as some of the soppier parts, became part of the scenes which unfolded in different rooms of an entirely imaginary Gothic house. Props were used and reused to create all manner of different household items that often left a lot for the imagination. Equally, the actors’ appearances were as well suited to the style of the play as the props: Barr’s mop of straggly hair immediately conjured up the image of Heathcliff and Corbett’s wig, with hair going outwards more than down, gave the impression she had been standing in gale force winds on the moors all her life.

”Was I to have gone, as many do, with a real expectation of watching something as heavily plotted as, say, a Brontë novel, I might have come away feeling a bit baffled by how absurd the play had been’’

Perhaps it could be said that the play-within-a-play lacked a real sense of plot development and the end came at a rather unexpected moment. Was I to have gone, as many do, with a real expectation of watching something as heavily plotted as, say, a Brontë novel, I might have come away feeling a bit baffled by how absurd the play had been. Nevertheless, I found that the ingenuity of the physical theatre throughout, as well as the pure entertainment value, more than compensatory. The only flaw for me personally was that, at my old age of twenty-one, it was sometimes hard to see exactly what was going on when smaller props were used from the back of the theatre.

We are Brontë was a superbly acted comic homage to the Brontë family and their work, and a fabulous evening that’ll get you belly-laughing.

Anna Seton

9/10

Image courtesy of Lakeside Arts Centre.

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