tue 26/03/2019

DVD: The Brontës of Haworth | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Brontës of Haworth

DVD: The Brontës of Haworth

Not much incident in this five-part dramatisation of the lives of the talented siblings but a strong ensemble cast

From left: Anne (Ann Penfold), Emily (Rosemary McHale, Charlotte (Vickery Turner) and Branwell (Michael Kitchen)

Are we approaching some sort  of Brontë anniversary? Or is it simply the 40th anniversary of this long-forgotten dramatization of the “Brontë story” that’s being marked with a two-disc DVD release? The Brontës of Haworth has hardly gone down in the annals of TV drama history, such as, for instance, I, Claudius, the 1976 adaptation of the Robert Graves’ novel currently being repeated on BBC Two. This is probably not surprising, since the Roman emperor’s life was hardly lacking in incident, and the same cannot be said of the talented siblings Emily, Charlotte, Anne and their troubled, underachieving brother Branwell.

Scripted by playwright Christopher Fry and directed by Marc Miller the five-episode drama is a Yorkshire Television production, so perhaps a reminder that commercial television has never quite pulled off a costume drama with as much aplomb as the BBC. Still, it’s a tricky one. Talking and writing alone cannot a compelling drama make, and there are innumerable sequences which show the sisters simply talking and walking, literally in circles around a table, to ward off the frustration and boredom of their constricted lives. 

Early episodes focus on Branwell (Michael Kitchen), in whom, being male, so much was invested. The first episode opens with their father (Alfred Burke) purchasing a birthday present for his young son. The box of toy soldiers the eight-year-old Branwell receives fuels the imaginations of each of the children, yet, in a tragic irony, it’s only Branwell who is convinced that he will grow up to write masterpieces or become a great portraitist. One is left with the impression that it is indecision and irresolution that finally wreck him, driving him to drink and inducing episodes of catatonic depression. Like each of his siblings his life is cut pitifully short.

Led by Kitchen and Burke, the strong ensemble cast includes Vickery Turner as Charlotte, Ann Penfold as Anne and Rosemary McHale as Emily. Using material from Elizabeth Gaskell's posthumous biography of Charlotte Brontë, it is narrated by Barbara Leigh-Hunt as the North and South author.

In a tragic irony, it’s only Branwell who is convinced that he will grow up to write masterpieces

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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hey-ho, it's that portrait, the one the Nat Portrait found crumpled up on top of someone's wardrobe a century or so on from its creation. I hope the portrait's creation at least made for some screen drama - there's the blotchy bit left in the middle of image where we assume Branwell painted himself. and then reconsidered. how right you are - (men) waving paintbrushes around in the agony of creation, so much more dramatic than (women) sitting thinking at tables..,

"Talking and writing alone cannot a compelling drama make". They really can, you know.

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