Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, adapted by Jonathan Holloway

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BBC Radio 3, 27 March 2011
Described by John Shea, Radio 3's announcer, as "a modernized and hard-hitting adaptation ... unlike any of the dramatizations that have gone before," Tim Dee's production emphasized the brutality of the characters in a primeval world dominated by racist and sexist attitudes. Partly this could be explained by jealousy: Heathcliff (Carl Prekopp) had a miserable childhood, as the Earnshaw family taunted him about his modest social origins. In turn Heathcliff resented Edgar's (Samuel Barnett's) social advantages as well as his love for Catherine (Natalie Press). When Heathcliff grew up, he enacted a terrible revenge on those who had once abused him.
In this world, the past inevitably exerted a terrible influence over the present. This was not only evident in Heathcliff's treatment of his immediate family, but was also brought out through an imaginative use of doubling. Barnett played both Edgar Linton and Linton Heathcliff; Hindley and Hareton Earnshaw were played by Russell Boulter; Zella and Isabella Lyton by Hayley Doherty; and Catherine Earnshaw and Cathy Lynton by Press. This suggested some kind of continuity throughout the generations, as well as suggesting that the souls (as well as the sins) of the parents lived on in their children. There were no 'heroes' or 'villains' in this adaptation (we never thought of Prekopp's Heathcliff as the kind of romantic hero characteristic of Laurence Olivier's performance in William Wyler's famous 1939 film); rather the characters had to deal with the past in the best ways they could. Heathcliff and Hareton tried to revenge themselves on their immediate family, while Cathy had to deal with the emotional fallout resulting from Heathcliff's lasting love for Catherine.
Was the adaptation any good? Dee's production certainly lived up to Shea's claims, with its earthy language and elemental attitudes. The characters all spoke contemporary English, emphasizing the fact that Wuthering Heights still has something to say to us about the pervasive influence of past on present. The brutality of this world also seemed uncomfortably up-to-date: as a servant Nelly Dean (Janine Duvitski) almost expected violent treatment from her employers, with no possibility of improving her existence. All she could do was to endure it.
Sometimes Dee's production seemed a little strident, as the actors shouted rather than spoke their lines in search of dramatic effect, but it invested Bronte's novel with a raw emotional energy.