Created by: Mel Dodge
Directed by: Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
BATS Theatre, 22nd Mar 2022
Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera
In the words of Charlotte Brontë herself, Mel Dodge’s Miss Brontë is “condensed, powerful energy”. With over 80 percent of the script from Charlotte Brontë’s own letters and novels, and the remaining 20 percent gleaned from extensive research, Miss Brontë feels as though it comes straight from the author’s own heart.
Dodge’s performance is second to none. Raw, pure, and utterly “based in truth”, Charlotte Brontë comes to life onstage in every iteration of her being; “not man, not woman, but author”. Cloaked in Letty Macphedran’s beautiful period piece costume, Brontë appears to us “a free independent human being [who] will write because [she] must” . Her childhood memories, her great loves, her heart-wrenching loneliness and grief, but most of all her unmitigated brilliance all take up residence in Dodge’s own soul onstage before us.
Matching Dodge’s performance is Marisa Cuzzolaro’s design and creation. Stage right is a writing desk, centre a dining table, and stage left a side table and armchair, all locations for Charlotte’s hours of writing. In each of these locations piles of books and papers take up residence, the stage a physical representation of Charlotte’s world and mind. The year is denoted upon the cover of each book Brontë picks up as she tells her story, and as the story and Brontë herself evolve, the stage becomes littered with page upon page of the Brontë sisters’ poetry and prose. Papers overflowing with words fly through the air just as thoughts would have flown through Brontë’s own mind, life, and heart.
Fiercely independent and steadfast in her ideals, Charlotte Brontë’s truths are laid bare in Miss Brontë as we see into a soul only glimpsed through the pages of her novels. “Imagination lifts my head when I am sinking”, the author pens, though her imagination, her stories “based in truth” depict women as intense, thoughtful, learned, complex, and human as herself and her sisters. Miss Brontë recognises the author’s soul, and for this it is unequivocally Brontë herself.