BBC Radio 7, 31 July 2010
Structured as a series of stream-of-consciousness monologues, told by
multiple narrators, Gondal chonicled the life of the Bronte family, as they grew up and tried to make their way in
early nineteenth century fictional circles, while simultaneously conforming to their family's wishes that they should remain
housebound, or (if they should choose to educate themselves) opt for one of the familiar female roles in society as governess,
companion or teacher.
What made Martyn Wade's play stand out was the way in which he interwove fantasy
and historical fact: the world of Gondal was the Bronte's fantasy world, defined by historical romances past and present,
in which heroes and villains battled for the hand of innocent women. The narrators Augusta (Diana Quick), Fernando (Nathaniel
Parker), and Emily (Janet Maw) were all part of that world, commenting not only on their fictionally constructed lives, but
on the lives of the women who created Gondal in the first place. By this means we learned how Gondal represented some kind
of an ideal for the Brontes - a way out of early nineteenth century conformity, as well as a kind of intellectual training-ground
for their novels (especially Wuthering Heights).
None of the Bronte sisters (or their brother Bramwell) lived to any great age - a
combination of poor health and living in unheated premises contributed to their demise. However during their lifetime they
lived life to the full, even if their experiences were mostly imaginative rather than tangible. The director of this
biodrama was Cherry Cookson.