“Although the Moors are outside, the desolation they invoke encroach into every scene”
Inspired by the letters of Charlotte Brontë, The Moors is a claustrophobic tale performed in the round at the intimate Hope Theatre. The venue is petite and oppressive, perfect for the tense confinement the play wants us to feel. Although the Moors are outside, the desolation they invoke encroach into every scene.
The young governess Emilie (played by the excellent Meredith Lewis) has just arrived, to find her new employers just as desolate as the bleak landscape. Agatha is in charge (Imogen Mackenzie enjoying her Gothic Nurse Ratched role), but her sister, Huldey, is the counterpoint. Huldey produces light where there is darkness, innocent joy where there is gloom, wearing hearty pink to Agatha’s ominous black. Kenia Fenton’s lightness as Huldey is heart-warming to watch.
Kenia Fenton as Huldey
For me, it’s Tamara Fairbairn who pitches her performance to the mood of the play - both quirky and menacing. Is she Marjory or Margaret? We never quite know. Which is how it should be.
Tamara Fairbairn as Marjory/Margaret
The subplot of the mastiff dog and the moorhen leaves me cold. Is it necessary? I don’t think so - others may disagree. Peter Hadfield and Matilda Childs do what they can with the bizarre scenes they are given - an intertwining parable that is a little too obvious as it crawls to its inevitable conclusion.
Huldey, Emile, Agatha and Margaret/Marjory
And therein lies what I think is a problem with the structure of the play. It is so full of threat and menace that, at two hours, we become numb to it. The constant ‘scary’ soundtrack, cleverly designed by Julian Starr, does its best to create the eerie atmosphere. But there is not enough action or comedy to truly relax us so that the shocks hit home. Too much is on the same level. Phil Bartlett’s direction attempts to keep some movement and flow, but I think it’s an issue with the heart of the play: trying too hard to scare and unnerve… perhaps more light and shade would help, as there is a creepy evening’s entertainment here which is desperate to get out and chill us!