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Sydney review- Bronte: a terrific play

By Paul Kiely


By Polly Teale

Directed by Barry Nielsen

A Genesian Theatre Company Production

Genesian Theatre

420 Kent Street, Sydney

Season: 1 – 22 July 2023. Bookings: Duration: 120 minutes including interval

Greatness often emanates from very humble beginnings. The story of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, is one such example.

In Bronte, writer Polly Teale provides context about how three cloistered sisters wrote English literary classics such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Polly Teale’s storytelling is engaging and entertaining. She covers the lives of the sisters from childhood to success using passages from their books, their private thoughts and interactions with their brother Bramwell and father Patrick.

A person unfamiliar with these novels is not disadvantaged in understanding the plot of Bronte.

The Bronte sisters were raised in a Yorkshire village called Haworth in the mid 1800’s. Their mother died during their formative years, so much of their experience and thinking came from two contradicting influences.

Their father, Patrick Bronte (Gregory George) is a strict Rector of the local parish. His overprotective approach and moralistic principles do not, however, diminish the love and respect from his daughters. As his eyesight dwindles to near blindness, they stay and care for him.

In contrast, their brother Bramwell (Theo Rule) is an energetic, and creative child who loves tales of adventure. He play-acts with his sisters and imagines himself as a swashbuckling hero.

As the children enter adulthood, Bramwell pushes boundaries too far. He falls prey to alcohol, pursues an affair with his employer’s wife and brings disgrace upon the Bronte name.

Through these times the sisters are voracious writers, penning private thoughts in journals and developing fictional characters. Their subject matter may have shocked Rev Bronte – issues of passion, love, sexual desire, abuse and violence.

Charlotte (Anneka Brownsberger), Emily (Emilia Stubbs Gregoriou) and Anne (Rebecca Harris) each create amazing word pictures in their novels. Under male pseudonyms, their publications go on to entertain, stimulate and inspire millions.

Much of their writing was for self-enjoyment. The sensitive Emily does not want anyone to read her works but feisty Charlotte eventually convinces her to publish. Charlotte writes “…women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts.”

Director Barry Nielsen has a great talent pool at hand. With an able cast, the personalities and eccentricities of each character shone brightly. Excellent performances from Gregory George, Anneka Brownsberger, Rebecca Harris, Emilia Stubbs Gregoriou, Theo Rule, Theo Hatzistergos and Georgia Jarrett.

Similarly, the staging (Tom Fahy), lighting/sound (Michael Schell) and costumes (Susan Carveth) perfectly reflected the nineteenth century setting.

Bronte is a terrific play. It comments well on the roles of men and women in Victorian times and shows that social obstacles can be overcome.


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