Wuthering Heights (2023) Review at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

A sublime display of theatrical techniques.

Press night tickets for review


Wuthering Heights has opened up at Royal & Derngate, Northampton nearly 200 years after it was written by Emily Brontë in the mid 1800’s and with its prominent violence, prejudices and abuse, comedy wasn’t at the forefront of the drama. I’m sure you can imagine our surprise when this well-adapted modern depiction which embraces Brontë’s wit and respects the storyline had us in stitches on laughter throughout.

This refreshing and new imagining of Wuthering Heights by Inspector Sands makes the storyline more accessible to all audiences. In the lavender haze of powering through my TBR list in lockdown, I had tackled Wuthering Heights and vaguely recalled the story but, if I’m honest, had more remembered the iconic quotes (more on that soon!) and the way the storyline which spans 30 years had left me in a mind spin, especially with similar names throughout!

Set in the Yorkshire hills, two houses, the Earnshaws and the Lintons ultimately become bittersweet rivals with antagonists along the way who have been victim once themselves. Mr Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff, a young orphan boy, into the family and starts treating him better than his own son and demanding to call him “brother” and there, the first of many monsters is shown.

Once Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff become star crossed lovers we see a burning chain reaction of births, deaths, love, hate and everything in between all with strong recurring themes of curses and the afterlife. With this in mind, I was especially grateful for the visual support with names, photos, birth and death dates and connecting lines which hung on the family tree on the walls.

The production is a sublime display of theatrical techniques which ticked all the boxes for an outstanding play. I couldn’t help but think how this would be an incredibly compelling piece of theatre to study as part of a drama syllabus. The use of symbolism to depict abuse and fighting was nothing short of outstanding – finished off with fake blood to ice the cake.

Pathetic fallacy is used often within the production to accurately mirror the novel complete with storms, wind, torrential rain and cold chills to highlight the tumultuous relationships between the people of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The use of haze, lighting and sound in the production was incredibly powerful and played such a key role in paying homage to a key element of the novel.

The production starts and ends with housekeeper come narrator, Nelly aka Mrs. Dean (Giulia Innocenti). With crashing thunder and voices tormenting her, we are met straight the way with curiosity and captivating about who the real monster is and the story about the two families from a character who seemingly comes from an all knowing eyewitness position. Giulia nailed this role, her timings, her delivery, her facial expressions, her trembling to her meddling. It was all on point.

Lua Bairstow portrays the spoiled yet free-spirited role of Catherine Earnshaw well often showing her fits of temper when things don’t go her way. Her internal struggle between passion for Heathcliff and a passion for social climbing is evident throughout and her delivery of the “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Edgar’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” was so well executed.

As part of this, I loved how the stage portrayed this scene, with Heathcliff visible to the audience and the proxemics of Nelly being closer to Heathcliff almost as if asserting her loyalty to him. This also followed with a wonderful display of internal monologue battles with other characters tormenting Nelly as to why she didn’t tell Catherine that Heathcliff had missed the most important part of the dialogue.

Ike Bennett nailed the role of Heathcliff. From a shy and broken young orphan to carefree teen in love to powerful and intimidating manospheric monster and back to a broken, battered and bruised man, he took the audience on a journey through his role. He played a marvellous misunderstood man and really highlighted the difficulties and struggles that Heathcliff had.

There were also two moments in which things ‘didn’t quite go right’ but both Bennett and Bairstow did a comical yet well performed moment of ad-lib which was so accurate to their characters personality that you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. We also had a brief moment in which Bennett broke the fourth wall and responded to a member of the audience which was also effective.


The rest of the cast, John Askew, Leander Deeny and Nicole Sawyerr took on the remaining parts and alternated between who they currently were or who was currently alive! I just want to note that Deeny switching between Edgar and Linton was fabulous and was one of the main sources of comedy throughout the production. The use of a children’s superhero mask and cloak paired with Deeny’s jaw dropping change of body language, vocals and facial expressions was all that was needed to literally switch persona right in front of the audiences eyes.

Wuthering Heights is directed by Lucinka Eisler and it’s clear that meticulous care has been taken. There is an integration of modern day attire paired with period costumes which seemingly reflects the entire mood of the production (there’s even some flossing dancing and a rendition of The Backstreet Boys!). It is the sort of play that keeps you on your toes!

Written by Ben Lewis, I am both in awe and in full admiration for the adaption of Emily Brontë’s classical piece. I do truly feel this reimagines Wuthering Heights and affirms it as a wonderful piece of theatre that makes the story more accessible to the modern day audience, whilst still embracing those roots. We were so delighted with this production which was both entertaining, engaging and humorous.

Lauren wearing kate bush inspired wuthering heights outfit pink with sunglasses prosecco and knee high boots at wuthering heights press night

If you are expecting a traditional version of Wuthering Heights, you might not be chuffed but if you’re willing to open your mind to a new imagining, then I’m sure you’ll be as delighted as us with this adaptation.

With no shadow of a doubt, Wuthering Heights is a 5 star production.

Royal & Derngate 24 APR – 06 MAY
Running Time: 2 hour 40 (including a 20 minute interval)
Age Recommendation: 14+ (contains strong language throughout)

After Emily Brontë
Created by Inspector Sands
Adaptation concieved and developed by Lucinka Eisler and Ben Lewis
Designed by Jamie Vartan
Co-Sound designer Elena Peña and Dan Balfour
Lighting designed by Ben Ormerod
Costumes designed by Johanna Mårtensson
Produced by China Plate


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