At Home with the Brontës
Lemon Squeeze Productions
The story of the Bronte family is well known. Brother Branwell (Stu Jackson) was perceived (by himself if no-one else) as the golden boy—artist and writer. In fact, he was a narcissistic petty thief, wastrel, alcoholic and ultimately drug addict. Sisters Charlotte (Sarah Archer), Emily (Julia Munrow) and Anne (Emma Hopkins) eventually grow out of revering their brother and, under male pen names, publish novels initially poorly received that eventually become recognised as masterpieces.
Author and director Joan Greening tells the story of the family in the form of two monologues by, and a conversation between, the characters. There is little dramatic interest in the monologues performed by Jackson and Munrow which are stuffed with factual details to the extent they resemble the historical re-enactments staged at stately homes to entertain visitors.
At Home with the Brontës is described as a ‘comedy drama’ which is not really accurate. A degree of humour creeps into the final piece mainly as Greening seems to be poking fun at her own heavy-handed expositional dialogue. Whole speeches are devoted to lists of the daily household chores and siblings who have died are mourned because they cannot help with the workload. The dialogue becomes not just expositional but cynical with Charlotte warning the viewer the sisters are about to enter a mawkish episode where they remember their brother.
At Home with the Brontës may best be appreciated by enthusiasts for the subject, who can appreciate the depth of the research, rather than by a more casual audience.
Reviewer: David Cunningham