REVIEW: Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights, York Theatre Royal, until November 20 *****

Out on the wily, windy moor: Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff, Lucy McCormick’s Catherine Earnshaw and Nandi Bhebhe’s The Moor in Wise Children’s The 39 Steps

FIVE years ago, when Emma Rice all too briefly ruled the Globe, executive producer Tom Bird told her he would be fleeing the Shakespeare nest to move to York. “I’m going to do Wuthering Heights,” she told him that day.

Bird, now York Theatre Royal’s chief executive, recalled Rice’s vow at Wednesday’s post-show Q&A session, as the two friends from London days discussed Wise Children’s gothic musical play that felt like it had indeed “come home”, as both Bird and Kate Bush before him, put it.

In turn, Nottingham-born Rice remembered childhood walks up to the Top of th’ Withens – the West Riding house said to have inspired Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights – on her Yorkshire visits.

True to her word, Wise Children artistic director and former Kneehigh theatrical pioneer Rice has made her Wuthering Heights, in tandem with production partners York Theatre Royal, the Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre, no less.

Rice’s association with Bird post-Globe has been a joyous and fruitful one for the York theatre, first hosting the premiere of Wise Children’s debut, Angela Carter’s Wise Children, then collaborating on her adaptation of Enid Blyton’s jolly-hocket-sticks Mallory Towers in 2019. Wuthering Heights would have followed far sooner but for the delay impact of Covid’s long winter.

As eggs is eggs, and Rice is Rice, the wait has been well worth it, and sure enough the Theatre Royal snapped, crackled and popped with excitement as smiling, exhilarated university theatre students took their turn to be photographed with an ever-obliging Rice in the foyer in the post-show buzz. If you could bottle the essence of theatre, why it can and should matter to all ages, why it still has limitless possibilities, then bottle that air right here, right now.

How come there is so much life in Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights when there is so much death and “so little love” in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (with a helpful, if grim family tree at the beginning of the digital programme)? Because she doesn’t look at life the way that others might, or tell it the way others might. Take, for example, her opinion that Emily Bronte is an “overlooked comic genius”, presenting as evidence the foppish Lockwood (Sam Archer) and Little Linton Heathcliff (Katy Owen), “the most despicably funny character ever written”.

Or how Rice transforms the Yorkshire moorland into a character, The Moor, led by Nandi Bhebhe, the narrator in a crown of thorns and twigs. All but Lucy McCormick’s Catherine Earnshaw and Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff play The Moor in Rice’s ensemble and even McCormick is seen shaking a stick feverishly in the first evocation of the moorland, amid the sound and fury of the live band’s percussive clatter signifying everything about Yorkshire’s tight, stifling grip.

Bhebhe’s bad weather-forecasting Moor and cohorts become the equivalent of Macbeth’s witches, both McCormick’s Cathy and Hunter’s conversing directly with her, although the cautionary Moor is trying to save them  from themselves.

Who cannot but love the team play in writer-director Rice’s shows, as exemplified by those Moors: the Moors, the merrier, as it were. Her cast sits attentively to the sides, always in view, visibly enthusing in each other’s performances as they conjure what Hunter calls her “theatre magic”.

Rice pulls off the feat of being deadly serious and yet seriously funny too; one review even used the words “camp” and “pastiche” to describe elements of the performance style, and there is something of the affectionate irreverence of Lip Service’s Withering Looks show about Rice’s script, not least when she comments on why do so many men’s names begin with H and why do so many characters have similar names?

Helpfully, each death is registered on a chalk board – as well as being signified by dark birds in flight across the projection screen – but there is a greater motive behind those boards: Rice’s passionate belief in the importance of literacy, a learning tool that was denied to Hareton by Heathcliff.

Rice is an audacious theatre-maker; she takes chances and invariably they pay off, typically in her casting choices, most notably maverick, fearless performance artist Lucy McCormick as her “unwell, prisoner-of-her-time Cathy, neither tortured romantic heroine, nor minx”.

“Lucy is a rock star,” she reasoned, and as if to prove the point, banshee McCormick suddenly grabs a microphone at one point, her locks tossed asunder by a fan, for an ensemble dance number that could have come from Rent or Spring Awakening as much as from the people’s operas of Brecht & Weill.

There is so much to love about Rice’s Wuthering Heights; the echo of Lawrence Olivier’s black-and-white film 1939 film in the title wording on screen; Vicki Mortimer’s set and costume designs, especially the towers of chairs; the use of puppetry and dance and projections; Ian Ross’s  songs, whether in folk musical major keys or minor keys for bleaker undercurrents; the musicianship of Sid Goldsmith, Nadine Lee and Renell Shaw; the way this is anything but the Heathcliff and Cathy show.

Katy Owen brings such heart to her double bill of spoilt toffs, Isabella and Little Linton; Sam Archer is playful as the absurd Lockwood and grave as the inadequate Edgar Linton; Tama Phethean’s glowering, towering Hindley and Hareton Earnshaw, the one bruising, the other bruised, hit home, and while Rice’s company makes you feel they are all scene stealers, none does more so than Craig Johnson’s deathly-camp Dr Kenneth.

Ultimately, spread over this revenge tragedy’s ensnaring three hours, this is more Heathcliff’s Wuthering Heights than Cathy’s, on account of Rice’s most serious social commentary of all, on racism, prompted by her visit to the Calais Jungle. Hunter’s intense, brooding, raging Heathcliff is the refugee, the outsider, of Jamaican roots, abused and mistreated. “Cruelty breeds cruelty. Be careful what you seed,” cautions Rice.

And yet, amid so little love and so much 19th century grimness up north, Rice finds an uplifting finale so beautiful that it brings tears of joy.

Tickets are still available; crack the whip, like Rice’s Cathy and Heathcliff, and book every last seat. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

“When Ash and Lucy start to fizz together, the planets start to spin,” says Emma Rice of her Wuthering Heights coupling

Lucy McCormick’s “rock star” Cathy in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Steve Tanner

ASK Wise Children artistic director Emma Rice why she cast performance artist and actor Lucy McCormick as Cathy in her stage adaptation of Wuthering Heights, and she replies: “Lucy is a rock star.”

Literally and metaphorically! She is pure charisma and has a wildness of spirit that takes my breath away. She is fearless, passionate, seriously sexy and maverick,” says Emma. “She was my Catherine Earnshaw from the moment I saw her perform and I cannot believe my luck that she is creating this role with me. I am in awe.”

Ask Emma why she picked Ash Hunter for Heathcliff, and she enthuses: “Oh, everything! Ash Hunter is everything I want from my Heathcliff. He has a unique intensity that could stop a train in its tracks and a deep understanding of human love, rage and sorrow. He is one of the finest actors I have ever worked with and when he and Lucy start to fizz together, the planets start to spin. I am beyond words.”

From Tuesday (9/11/2021), Lucy and Ash will be at York Theatre Royal, leading Rice’s company in Wise Children’s wild folk musical account of Emily Bronte’s raging Yorkshire moorland tale of love, revenge and redemption in a co-production with the York theatre, the National Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic.

Here Lucy and Ash discuss Emma’s directorial style, returning to the stage, their roles, their passions, their accents.  

Emma’s style is so distinctive, how would you describe it?

Lucy: “I would say ‘theatrical’.”

Ash: “I read somewhere that it’s ‘theatre magic’ and I think that a very apt description of her style. She’s got a massive bag of tricks, which she can delve into to create something rare and different to the theatre you see anywhere else.”

Lucy: “Colourful and dramatic but very theatrical and very musical. A bit of everything.”

Ash: “She clearly has a love for the stage and all of its facets; puppetry, song, dance, there’s nothing that doesn’t happen in this production. Vivid.”

How are you feeling about getting stuck into this production, especially after the last two years?

Lucy: “I’ve known about this job during that whole time, which was weird. It got postponed twice during those two years, but it’s good to be back being busy.”

Ash: “Previous to lockdown, the last couple of jobs I’ve had were in TV, so it’s great to be back on stage again. But this has always been a huge production that we’ve been leading up to. So, I think in terms of emotion and preparation it’s been quite a big shift starting Wuthering Heights.”

“When Ash and Lucy start to fizz together, the planets start to spin,” says director of Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff and Lucy McCormick’s Cathy in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff are a passionate pair, what are you most passionate about?

Ash: “I’m passionate about Lucy.”

Lucy: “I’m passionate about deconstructing patriarchal capitalist systems and I like peanut butter.”

Ash: “And I’m still passionate about Lucy.”

Emily Brontë’s novel has inspired so many versions. How do you best know Wuthering Heights: as the book, a film or TV adaptation or that Kate Bush song?

Ash: “Mine is the Kate Bush song, always and forever, and the Tom Hardy TV series version, which is what I based my Heathcliff on,” [he says with a laugh].

Lucy: “I’ve read the book, back when I was an acting student. I read it because I thought I should read some old classic novels, and now I’m in it!”

What sort of Heathcliff and Cathy will feature in this version of Wuthering Heights?

Lucy: “I’m a bit more intense than Cathy in my actual life.”

Ash: “I think what’s quite clear is that we have some similarities to our characters in real life. I think I’m a lot like him, especially the version that we are doing here. We were saying the version of Heathcliff here isn’t colour-blind casting; he is black, he’s got a Jamaican accent.

“He’s spurned and treated like an outcast, not only because of his poverty or social standing, but also because of his colour, and the anger that’s brewed up within him is a righteous anger.

“Colourful and dramatic but very theatrical and very musical,” says Lucy McCormick, summing up Emma Rice’s stage version of Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

“It’s something that I have felt; I think he is me if I hadn’t found my peace. I actually think that he is less brutal than the Heathcliff in the book and there was a desire to show that people are not entirely bad or entirely good. I think Emma [Rice] hasn’t allowed Heathcliff to become as dark as he could have become, and there are moments where you see him soften.”

Lucy: “Emma wants to leave it on a positive. He’s bad enough.”

Why should this story be told now?

Ash: “For me, its specific to what’s going on in the world and with me and my relationship with my blackness and masculinity. I’m hoping there are people who are going to see this and identify with Heathcliff and his struggles. If you treat someone like a monster, then you create a monster. You wanted a monster, you got one.

“Hopefully, people see that reflection and even out of that can come love and positivity, and if you do face that and deal with your demons, something good can come from it.”

Lucy: “I do think people will always be a***holes; what’s a better way of putting that? It’s like reality TV, these awful people play out their lives and people love to look in on it and their mistakes and hopefully learn from them.

“It’s a classic story of dysfunctional people making mistakes and hopefully an audience can analyse it and see where it went wrong. Because people can be rubbish, and that’s never going to change, unfortunately.”

This is a classic Yorkshire tale; how are your accents coming along?

Ash: “I’m speaking with a Caribbean accent. I love it because of the lyricalness of it. I can’t imagine doing it another way and also where it places him and my voice. It is there to differentiate him from everyone else; you can’t get away from his otherness.

Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff with Katy Owen’s Isabella in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

“The choice that when he comes back a gentleman, that he hasn’t changed his accent, he has a more refined, posh, deeper Jamaican accent but he’s not trying to change who he is, he’s owning it. It’s beautiful.”

Lucy: “What was weird for me is that it’s close to my accent but not my accent. I’ve almost found that harder than say an American accent or whatever else I’ve done. It’s just working on that subtle difference. Tweaking my own voice. It’s quite annoying!”

What can the York audiences expect to feel after watching this adaptation of Wuthering Heights?

Ash: “Exhausted! It’s a whole gamut of human emotions! Emma hasn’t left anything out.”

Lucy: “They’re going to laugh, they’re going to cry – and feel celebratory at the end but they will have gone through a journey.”

Ash: “The first half is just a juggernaut. It’s a play in itself! The ending of the first half is just… Watching Catherine and Heathcliff’s descent into mutual madness is just woah! It’s cool.”

Lucy: “There’s a point in the first half that you get to and you just don’t stop! And then we do a second play! The audience seem to feel good about it. Emma wants the audience to feel good at the end.”

Ash: “The first half has a massive tragedy and the second half ends with big drama but in a different way. Emma is careful to give the audience a gift to go away with.”

Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights runs at York Theatre Royal, November 9 to 20. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Lucy McCormick in Wise Children’s tour poster for Wuthering Heights, leaping onto the York Theatre Royal stage from Tuesday. Picture: Hugo Glendinning




Hitting the Heights – Heathcliff Richard, throbbing passion and withering looks

Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff and Lucy McComick’s Cathy in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights in 2021. Picture: Steve Tanner

AS Emma Rice’s adaptation of Emily Brontë’sWuthering Heights heads to York Theatre Royal from November 2, Steve Pratt considers the reaction to the original novel and previous incarnations of the story.

Bell, book and Brontë 

EMILY Brontë’s only novel Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Wuthering Heights and Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey were accepted by publisher Thomas Newby before the success of their sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre. 

It was described by reviewers as both “a disagreeable story” and “a strange book”. Another thought the faults of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre were “magnified a thousand-fold”, adding that “the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read”.

Another critic noted: “It is not without evidences of considerable power: but, as a whole, it is wild, confused, disjointed, and improbable; and the people who make up the drama, which is tragic enough in its consequences, are savages ruder than those who lived before the days of Homer.” 

Praise was in short supply. “We rise from the perusal of Wuthering Heightsas if we had come fresh from a pest-house. Read Jane Eyreis our advice, but burn Wuthering Heights,” suggested one critic. 

The writer in United States’ publication Graham’s Lady’s Magazine was clearly no fan: “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors…”

Cliff Richard’s Heathcliff in 1996

Heath-Cliff Richard

HEATHCLIFF, a musical conceived by and starring Cliff Richard, centred on the character of – yes, you’ve guessed it – Heathcliff. Some imagined that dark and brooding Heathcliff was outside clean-cut pop star Cliff’s acting range. Song lyrics were by Tim Rice, no less. The musical’s book was not by Ms Brontë but Cliff and theatre director Frank Dunlop. 

A studio album with ten songs from the show, including duets with now-Dame Olivia Newton-John, was released in 1995 with the stage version premiering the following year in London. Ticket sales broke box office records although critics were less enthusiastic than Cliff’s fans.

Moors the merrier

IN 1939, MGM turned the book into a movie, recreating the Yorkshire Moors on a California ranch and in a Hollywood film studio. Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon starred. A “very poor” adaptation, thought one critic, adding: “The accuracy is dreadful, the characters are almost unrecognisable and the setting a century and a half out. Enjoy it as a romance but, if you watch as a portrayal of the book, you will be disappointed.”

Oscar-nominated as best picture, the film lost out to Gone With The Wind.

Ralph Fiennes, in his film debut as Heathcliff, and French star Juliette Binoche as Cathy in Peter Kosminsky’s 1992 film Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Beating about the Bush

WUTHERING Heights was Kate Bush’s debut single in 1977, written when she was 17. It became the first UK number one written and performed by a female artist.

Kiss me Hardy

THE 2009 ITV adaptation of Wuthering Heights starred Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy, who became a couple in real life once the cameras stopped turning. Their romance had a happier ending than Cathy and Heathcliff’s – they are now married with children.

Throbbing passion 

JANET McTeer, the award-winning actor who worked in the York Theatre Royal coffee bar as a student, not only appeared in the 1992 Wuthering Heights film as Ellen Dean but also read the audio book.

A reviewer considered her performance brought the book fully to life, adding, “McTeer’s sections throb with the passions appropriate to this classic.”

O-O-Brontë 

THE forgotten James Bond – hands up those who remember Timothy Dalton played 007 in three movies – was shaken and stirred by Cathy when he played Heathcliff in the 1970 film. Producer Louis Heyward declared this would be more like the book than the first American version (not difficult), saying “Hollywood now goes in for the truth. Heathcliff was a bastard and Cathy a real bitch and that’s how they’ll be in this film”.

A sequel, Return to Wuthering Heights, was threatened but happily never materialised.

Lip Service satirists Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding in Withering Looks

‘Allo, ‘Allo, Eeethcleef

THE 1992 film version was shot on Yorkshire locations with Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff and French actress Juliette Binoche as Cathy. The scenery was authentic but critics worried about the French actress’s faltering English accent, not to mention seeing an uncredited Sinead O’Connor narrating the story as Emily Brontë herself.

Effing Heights

A BBC Radio 3 adaptation put the f-word into the mouths of Cathy and Heathcliff to “capture the shock” that greeted the publication of the book (which had words crossed out in the original text because they were considered too strong).

Writer Jonathan Holloway declared: “What I wanted to elbow out is this idea that it’s the cosy greatest love story ever told – it’s not. For me Wuthering Heights is a story of violent obsession, and a tortuous unfulfilled relationship. This is not a Vaseline-lensed experience.”

Gone with the Howling Wind

HURLEVENTwhich translates as Howling Wind – was a 1985 French film adaptation of the first part of the novel, set in 1930s’ Southern France. Other adaptations have moved the story to Catholic Mexico, a California high school and medieval Japan. The book has also been an opera and a graphic novel.

Withering Looks

LIP Service, alias comedy duo Sue Ryding and York’s Maggie Fox, continue to perform their award-winning Brontë spoof Withering Looks on stages up and down the land. The show is described as “an authentic look at the lives and works of the Brontë sisters – well, two of them actually as Anne has just popped out for a cup of sugar”. 

Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights, a York Theatre Royal, National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic co-production with Emma Rice’s Wise Children, runs at York Theatre Royal from November 2 to 9. Box office: 01904 623568.

Emma Rice shakes up cautionary tale Wuthering Heights as epic folk musical

“Lucy McCormick is pure charisma and has a wildness of spirit that takes my breath away,” says director Emma Rice of her “rock star” actor playing Cathy. Picture: Steve Tanner

YORK Theatre Royal’s Haunted Season climaxes with Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights, Emma Rice’s long-touted elemental adaptation of Emily Bronte’s gothic Yorkshire revenge tragedy, from Tuesday to November 20.

Company founder and artistic director Rice completes a hattrick of Theatre Royal visits after her stage versions of Angela Carter’s Wise Children in March 2019 and Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in September that year.

This time, she partners with the National Theatre, Bristol Vic (in the city where Wise Children are based in Spike Island) and the York theatre for a gale-force, folk musical Wuthering Heights, whose tale of love, revenge and redemption is marked by her trademark visual flair, wild humour, puppetry and casting of “rock star” Lucy McCormick as Cathy.

Here Emma answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions as Wuthering Heights seeks to hit new heights.

You call Wuthering Heights a “tragedy”, but reviews have emphasised the “comedy/pastiche”, “the unfaithful storytelling” and the folk musical panache of your interpretation. Have past productions been too serious and Yorkshire-grim?

“I believe that Emily Brontë is an overlooked comic genius. I love comedy and there’s always laughter in my shows, but it wasn’t difficult to bring fun to this adaptation – it’s all there in the text.

“Linton Heathcliff is the most despicably funny character ever written and Lockwood a comedy genius. I hope this production will celebrate Brontë’s sparkling humour as well as her bloody passion.”

Kandaka Moore (Zillah), left, Ash Hunter (Heathcliff), Nandi Bhebhe (The Moor), Lucy McCormick (Cathy) and Witney White (Frances Earnshaw) in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

What were the aspects of the story that you most wanted to bring out for a 2021 audience in its transition from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights to Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights?

“There are several aspects of the show that cast a new ‘21st century’ light on the book, but one thing that stands out is how I see Catherine. I initially saw her as the traditional tortured romantic heroine, then as a bit of a minx. Now I think she’s unwell.

“I think she’s a prisoner of her time: a deeply independent women who is constrained by the limitations of being a woman in the 1800s and who fights against those restrictions until it literally drives her mad. I’ve enjoyed exploring this way of looking at this iconic character with Lucy [McCormick] in the role.”  

What made you cast Lucy McCormick as Cathy?

Lucy is a rock star. Literally and metaphorically! She is pure charisma and has a wildness of spirit that takes my breath away. She is fearless, passionate, seriously sexy and maverick. She was my Catherine from the moment I saw her perform and I cannot believe my luck that she is creating this role with me. I am in awe.”

What do you recall of first reading Wuthering Heights:  where, when; how old were you?

“I have always loved the book, though at different times in my life it has meant different things to me. In my teens it was one of the first ‘exam’ books that really got me; it fired up my reluctant teenage brain and dared me to dream of passion and romance.

“In later readings, I was struck by how little love there actually is in the book: it’s brutal and cruel, and this darker version of the book stuck in my mind. 

Ash Hunter as Heathcliff and Lucy McCormick as Cathy. Picture: Steve Tanner

“Then, a few years ago, I was appalled by what I saw at the Calais Jungle and at refugee camps all over the world. I was horrified by the cold negotiations our government was having about how many refugee children we would take in – horrified that this could even be a question a so-called civilised country was asking. Something sparked in my brain. Wasn’t Heathcliff an accompanied child?”

Do you view the book and its writer differently now to when you first read it?

“It blows my mind that this book was written by someone so sheltered. The detail of Cathy’s neurosis and behavioural issues and the depiction of illness is devasting and brilliantly described.

“I wonder if, as a vicar’s daughter, all of life came to the Brontes’ door and that is how Emily knew so much about the human condition. I don’t find the novel unworldly in the slightest. It is brutally honest and frighteningly well observed. It explores, obsession, control, prejudice, jealousy, violence and hope. All themes very much rooted in reality.

“I knew I needed to tell this story and I needed to tell it now. When Heathcliff is found at the Liverpool docks, the way he is treated sparks a series of events that are catastrophic. This is a cautionary tale and a revenge tragedy. Truly a story for our times.”

What does outsider Heathcliff’s story represent in our increasingly intolerant, unwelcoming post-Brexit society?

“For me, Heathcliff, and the way he’s treated by those around him, is the key to the story. On the surface it’s a love story, but deep down I think it’s about kindness and about the danger of not showing compassion to those in need.

“Wuthering Heights is a cautionary tale about what happens when we treat those in need as somehow less than ourselves. This is the driving force of my adaptation: cruelty breeds cruelty. Be careful what you seed.” 

“Ash Hunter has a unique intensity that could stop a train in its tracks,” says Emma Rice of her pick to play Heathcliff, right

What made you cast Ash Hunter in the role?

“Oh, everything! Ash Hunter is everything I want from my Heathcliff. He has a unique intensity that could stop a train in its tracks and a deep understanding of human love, rage and sorrow. He is one of the finest actors I have ever worked with and when he and Lucy start to fizz together, the planets start to spin. I am beyond words.”

How important is the physicality of the Yorkshire landscape to your production? How do you represent it on stage?

“Hugely important. In fact, I’ve made The Yorkshire Moor a character in the show, played by the jaw-droppingly talented Nandi Bhebhe and the ensemble. The Moor narrates the story, as well as trying – and often failing – to save the characters from themselves.”  

Wuthering Heights features a live band. Why is music so integral to your theatre-making?

“Music is important to every part of my life. I love music and can’t imagine making a show that wasn’t full of it. And it feels essential to theatre. Along with storytelling, making music is one of the oldest forms of communication. It’s how we reach across the divide and connect with other humans. 

“Wuthering Heights particularly calls for an epic score: it’s an epic novel and needs to be met with everything it demands and deserves. Ian Ross, my long-time collaborator, has composed the most extraordinary score, raw, ravishing and brimful of passion.”

Is it really “grim up north”? If not, why is that the north’s reputation?!

“Haha! I definitely don’t think it’s grim up north, in fact I love it! My family were big campers in the 1970s and many a wet weekend was spent in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. I remember walking up to Upper Withins – the place that is thought to have inspired Wuthering Heights – and being a little disappointed at how small it was. I was intoxicated by the moors though, and the Brontë Parsonage and the sheer wildness of that world.”

“It is a privilege and a wonder to be making something so important,” says Wuthering Heights director Emma Rice. Picture: Steve Tanner

You are building up a relationship with York Theatre Royal for your Wise Children work. Why is forging links with regional theatres, as well as with the National Theatre, important to you?

“York Theatre Royal is Wise Children’s most steadfast collaborator: we’ve made three original touring shows since we launched the company in 2018, and YTR has co-produced all of them! We love working with them and hope to continue doing so long into the future. 

“Wise Children’s mission is about making great work and touring it around the country – because we believe that audiences everywhere should have access to the talent and vision that is all too often only seen in the capital.

“We’re also committed to touring the ‘real thing’: we don’t send out a second cast, or a rejigged set – we tour with the original production and cast, making sure that the show is in its perfect form, whether you see it in York or Inverness.” 

If someone has never seen Wuthering Heights, or indeed read it, why should they come to your show?

“Because it’s got everything! An epic story, a staggeringly beautiful set, deliriously wonderful music, and a cast of such searing talent that my heart jumps every night. I truly feel this is some of the most thrilling work I have ever made, and I am loving watching audiences respond to it.

“Inspired and emboldened by lockdown, we were determined to bring everything we could to this show – and you can feel the energy in every song, dance, line and action. It is a privilege and a wonder to be making something so important with such an amazingly talented and joyful company.”

Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights runs at York Theatre Royal, November 9 to 20, 7.30pm (except November 14); 2pm matinees, November 11, 13, 18 and 20. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

“I truly feel this is some of the most thrilling work I have ever made,” says Emma Rice as Wuthering Heights blasts its way to York Theatre Royal . Picture: Steve Tanner

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