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.

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

Copyright of The Press, York.

More Things To Do in York and beyond that Euro football tournament. It’s all kicking off in List No. 36, courtesy of The Press, York

What’s the pecking order here? Twirlywoos Live! at York Theatre Royal

EUROS 2020? What Euro 2020? The sun is out and so is Charles Hutchinson’s diary as he points you in the direction of curious CBeebies favourites, acoustic concerts, a dockyard Romeo & Juliet, a large painting, Clough v Leeds United and more ideas aplenty. 

Children’s show of the week: Twirlywoos Live!, York Theatre Royal, tomorrow at 1.30pm and 4pm; Saturday, Sunday, 10am and 2pm

TOODLOO, Great BigHoo, Chick and Peekaboo set sail for York on board their Big Red Boat for their Theatre Royal theatrical adventure Twirlywoos Live!.

Curious, inquisitive and eager to learn about the world, these small, bird-like characters from the CBeebies television factory will be brought to life with inventive puppetry, mischief, music and plenty of surprises.

Written by Zoe Bourn, the 55-minute show is recommended for ages 1+; babes in arms are welcome too. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Joshua Burnell: York prog-folk musician will perform in a Songs Under Skies double bill on June 14. Picture: Elly Lucas

Outdoor gigs of the week ahead: Songs Under Skies 2, National Centre for Early Music churchyard, York June 14 to 16

SONGS Under Skies returns to the NCEM’s glorious gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, for acoustic double bills by Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell on June 14, Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.

As with last September’s debut series, season two of the open-air, Covid-safe concerts is presented by the NCEM in tandem with The Crescent community venue, the Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance.

Gates open at 6.30pm for each 7pm to 8.30pm concert with a 30-minute interval between sets. Tickets must be bought in advance, either in “pods” for family groups or as individuals at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Art at large: Subterranea Nostalgia, by Corrina Rothwell

Biggest painting of the week award: Corrina Rothwell’s Subterranea Nostalgia, in The Cacophany Of Ages at Pyramid Gallery, York, until July 1

CORRINA Rothwell’s exhibition of abstract works features the largest canvas painting in the near-30 years that Terry Brett has run Pyramid Gallery in York.

“Subterranea Nostalgia measures 1600mm by 1600mm. That was fun, getting it upstairs!” says Terry, whose gallery is housed in a National Trust-owned 15th century building in Stonegate. “The painting has a real impact. If you know anyone with really big walls, it would be perfect for them!”

Nottingham artist Corrina favours mixed media and acrylic on canvas for the paintings, on show at Pyramid and online at pyramidgallery.com.

Not having a ball: Luke Dickson’s Brian Clough goes to hell and back in his 44 days in charge of Leeds United in Red Ladder Theatre Company’s The Damned United

Football, football, football, not on the box but in a theatre: Red Ladder Theatre Company in The Damned United, York Theatre Royal, June 16

THE choice is yours: Italy versus Switzerland at the Euro 2020 on ITV at 8pm or the inner workings of Brian Clough’s troubled mind at Elland Road in 1974 at York Theatre Royal, kick-off 7.30pm.

Adapted from Yorkshireman David Peace’s biographical novel by Anders Lustgarten, The Damned United is a psychodrama that deconstructs Old Big ‘Ead’s 44 days as manager of Leeds United, whose Don Revie-tutored players he despised as much as they loathed him.

The double act of Luke Dickson’s flawed Clough and David Chafer’s avuncular Peter Taylor are joined by Jamie Smelt as everyone else in a story of sweat and booze, fury and power struggles, demons and defeats.

That’s a good idea…

Festival of the month: York Festival of Ideas 2021, running until June 20

THIS year marks the tenth anniversary of York’s bright idea of a festival dedicated to educating, entertaining and inspiring.

Under the banner of Infinite Horizons to reflect the need to adapt to pandemic, the Festival of Ideas is presenting a diverse programme of more than 150 free online and in-person events.

The best idea, when needing more info on the world-class speakers, performances, family activities and walking trails, is to head to yorkfestivalofideas.com/2021/.

You kiss by the dock: Husband and wife Jordan Metcalfe and Laura Elsworthy as Romeo and Juliet in Hull Truck Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet at Hull’s former dry dock

Outdoor play outside York announcement of the month: Hull Truck Theatre in Romeo & Juliet, Stage@The Dock, Hull, July 15 to August 7

AFTER John Godber Company’s Moby Dick completes its run at the converted Hull dry dockyard this Saturday, next comes Hull Truck Theatre’s al-fresco staging of Shakespeare’s tragic love story.

The title roles in Romeo & Juliet will be played by Hull-born husband and wife Jordan Metcalfe and Laura Elsworthy, who appeared in The Hypocrite and The Last Testament Of Lillian Bilocca in 2017 as part of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture celebrations.

Metcalfe and Elsworthy, who married in the summer of 2018 after bonding when working on The Hypocrite, will play a stage couple for the first time, performing on a traverse stage to emphasise Verona’s divided society. Box office: hulltruck.co.uk.

Hitting the Heights: Lucy McCormick’s wild-haired Cathy in the Wise Children poster for Emma Rice’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights, bound for York Theatre Royal

Looking ahead to the autumn: Wise Children in Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights, York Theatre Royal, November 8 to 20

EMMA Rice’s Wise Children company is teaming up with the National Theatre, York Theatre Royal and the Bristol Old Vic for her elemental stage adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Yorkshire moorland story of love, vengeance and redemption.

In an intoxicating revenge tragedy for our time shot through with music, dance, passion and hope, Rice’s company of performers and musicians will be led by Lucy McCormick’s Cathy.

“Emboldened and humbled by the enforced break, I feel truly lucky,” says Rice. “I cannot wait to get back to doing what I love most and to share this thrilling and important piece with the world. It’s time.”

An Evening With Julian Norton, vet, author and now show host, is booked in for Pocklington Arts Centre

Veterinary appointment in 2022: An Evening With Julian Norton, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 18

JULIAN Norton, author, veterinary surgeon and star of Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, will share amusing anecdotes from his work with animals in North Yorkshire, bringing to life all the drama and humour in the daily routine of a rural vet.

Following in the footsteps of James Herriot author Alf Wight, Norton has spent most of his working life in Thirsk. His latest book, All Creatures: Heart-warming Tales From A Yorkshire Vet, was published in March. Box office: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

‘It’s time,’ says Emma Rice as Wise Children’s long-promised Wuthering Heights is confirmed for York Theatre Royal

The first poster for Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights, starring Lucy McCormick as Cathy. Picture: Hugo Glendinning

YORK Theatre Royal will play host to the world premiere of Emma Rice’s long-touted adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights from November 8 to 20.

Rice’s company, Wise Children, is mounting the touring co-production with the Theatre Royal, the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic (in the city where Wise Children are based in Spike Island).

Lucy McCormick’s Cathy will lead artistic director Rice’s company of performers and musicians for an elemental stage adaptation that brings new life to the epic Yorkshire moorland story of love, revenge and redemption with Rice’s trademark musical and visual style.

Emma said today: “It is with an earthy spring in my step and epic twinkle in my eye that I announce our new plans for Wuthering Heights. So many projects have fallen by the wayside during lockdown that there were times when I lost hope – but there was no need!

“Wise Children are back; stronger, wiser and grateful for the chance to sing and dance again. The exceptional cast, crew, administrative and creative teams are ready to go and we are fizzing with ideas, dreams and anticipation.

“Emboldened and humbled by the enforced break, I feel truly lucky. I cannot wait to get back to doing what I love most and to share this thrilling and important piece with the world. It’s time.”

“I cannot wait to get back to doing what I love most,” says Wise Children artistic director Emma Rice

Should you need a reminder, this is the Brontë one where, rescued from the Liverpool docks as a child, Heathcliff is adopted by the Earnshaws and taken to live at Wuthering Heights, finding a kindred spirit in Catherine Earnshaw as a fierce love ignites. When forced apart, a brutal chain of events is unleashed.

“Shot through with music, dance, passion and hope, Emma Rice transforms Emily Brontë’s masterpiece into a powerful and uniquely theatrical experience,” the tour publicity states. “Lucy McCormick leads the company of performers and musicians in this intoxicating revenge tragedy for our time, with set and costume design by Vicki Mortimer; sound and video by Simon Baker; composition by Ian Ross; movement and choreography by Etta Murfitt and lighting design by Jai Morjaria.”

Rice’s production will open at Bristol Old Vic with previews from October 11 and livestreams to be confirmed for the first week in November. Before all that, this summer Rice directs her Wise Children adaptation of Percy and Eleonore Adlon’s Bagdad Cafe at The Old Vic, in London, from July 17 to August 21, with a livestream for Old Vic: In Camera 25 on August 28.

Wise Children – the company Rice formed when her artistic directorship of Shakespeare’s Globe ended in acrimony in April 2018 after only two seasons – will be completing a hat-trick of visits to York Theatre Royal after staging Rice’s adaptation of Angela Carter’s Wise Children in March 2019 and Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in September that year in a co-production with the Theatre Royal.

On that visit came the promise of first news of “a third collaboration between Wise Children and York Theatre Royal, this one with a Yorkshire core and National significance in 2020. Watch this space,” as The Press, York, teased. In other words, after much more space watching than first planned, here comes Wuthering Heights and the National Theatre as co-producers.

In her 2016-2018 tenure at Shakespeare’s Globe, Rice directed Romantics Anonymous, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Little Matchgirl (and Other Happier Tales).

Class act: Wise Children’s stage adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers at York Theatre Royal in September 2019

For the previous 20 years, she had worked for Kneehigh Theatre as an actor, director and artistic director, putting the company on the national map and becoming favourites at West Yorkshire Playhouse (now Leeds Playhouse) on regular sold-out visits to Yorkshire with bravura shows replete with magical storytelling, rumbustious music and circus daring.

However, in a tale of Rice and fall, the news of Wuthering Heights’ tour comes only a day after Kneehigh announced their exit stage left bereft after “changes in artistic leadership raised questions as to whether Kneehigh could sustain their vision going forward”.

In March, founding artistic director, actor, director and teacher Mike Shepherd announced his departure – “the end of this glorious book,” he said – after more than 40 years at Kneehigh. Only two months earlier, deputy artistic director Carl Grose had left too.

The company statement reads in full: “With sadness and regret, the trustees of Kneehigh are announcing the winding down of Kneehigh Theatre.

“While the last year has been a difficult time for many people, including those employed in the arts, performance and theatre, Kneehigh’s financial stability has enabled the company to continue to create work throughout the pandemic.

“Kneehigh is grateful to its principal funder, Arts Council England, and for the significant support received from the Culture Recovery Fund, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Coastal Communities Fund, Cornwall Council and Garfield Weston Foundation.

“Recent changes in artistic leadership raised questions as to whether Kneehigh could sustain their vision going forward. The trustees and company reflected on a possible new future but concluded that it was better and more responsible to close Kneehigh and ensure an orderly wind-down.”

Farewell, Kneehigh

“The company wants to thank everyone who came to watch the performances, the artists they have had the pleasure to work alongside, the industry collaborators and partners, the volunteers and community groups who shared their time, knowledge and stories, as well as the funders and the friends – all of whom made the work possible.”

Hedda Archbold, chair of the board, said: “The board wants to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for the Kneehigh team. We want to thank them for the excellent work they have done and pay tribute to their passion and commitment to Kneehigh.

“Last Saturday, the brilliant Random Acts Of Art had its final performance. The project has been a high point on which to end. These bold, playful, humorous and thought-provoking creative works brought together dozens of collaborators all across Cornwall, and delighted audiences out and about as well as online.

“Eclectic, anarchic, inspiring and inclusive, it embodied the spirit of Kneehigh we have loved for the past 40 glorious years. Despite the challenges of the past year, it has been an incredible journey filled with joy and delight.”

Bless you, Kneehigh, for the treasured memories, whether at the Playhouse in Leeds or on a holiday visit to the Asylum at Heligan Gardens, Cornwall, in September 2018 for Fup: A Modern Fable. Thank you and goodnight after many a good night. Your work here is done: you changed the face, the reach, the possibilities, of theatre.

Rice’s snap, crackle and pop theatre goes on, however, and tickets are sure to sell fast for Wuthering Heights on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.