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‘We are Three Sisters’ – review

We Are Three Sisters by the Yorkshire poet and novelist, Blake Morrison, is an unusual take on the Bronte story. We are invited into the Haworth parsonage which is full of guests, a doctor, a teacher, a curate, and Branwell’s married lover, Lydia Robinson, as well as the Bronte family and Tabby, their faithful servant. The stage is permanently packed – this is not the isolated parsonage of popular imagination, but a family home full of interactions, discussions, quarrels and dreams.

Look a little closer, though, and we can see that each of the characters is suffering from unrequited love or longing, fantasies and fears about the outside world, - except possibly for the heartless Lydia, skilfully played by Verity Mann. The set reflects this – an intimate Victorian living room, giving way at the back to gravestones and the ghostly image of the moor beyond. In the room itself, books are the most dominant feature, and the portrait of the three sisters done by their brother. In this play, the lasting impact of art and literature is contrasted with the ephemeral quality of love, or passion – at the end Charlotte affirms it is their books that will survive. There are some outstanding performances that keep the momentum going in this rather discursive play. The scenes between Patrick Bronte and Charlotte achieve an intimacy and warmth that does not come from the script, and Branwell’s destructive passion for Lydia is convincingly realised. Anne is vividly expressive, and the interactions between the three sisters conveys the intense, sometimes suffocating nature of their love.

It was especially refreshing to hear the words of the novels themselves read between the scenes . Fans of the Brontes will undoubtedly enjoy this atmospheric portrayal of their lives.

'We are Three Sisters' will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our booking site.

Livi Michael, June 4, 2018,

The nightmare of three siblings

Hi, my name is Sam and I’m playing the role of Branwell in the Saddleworth Players’ upcoming production of Blake Morrison’s ‘We Are Three Sisters’. My last role here was Pip in ‘Great Expectations’ in December, and before that I was Benjamin in ‘The Graduate’. This time I’m being seduced by another Mrs Robinson!

As we enter the final week of rehearsals before show week, I’ve had the chance to reflect on Branwell as a character and in particular I’ve focussed on his relationship with his three sisters. I myself have three siblings, but in my case I have two brothers and one sister. Poor Branwell had it much harder, it seems!

Branwell is essentially portrayed in this play as a tragic character who throws his life away pursuing a destructive relationship with the married Lydia Robinson. He becomes obsessive and unstable, eventually succumbing to substance abuse in the form of alcohol addiction, in spite of his obvious intellect and potential as both a poet and an artist. In this, he is somewhat in keeping with all of the other men in this play (apart from his father). The Doctor, the Teacher, the Curate and Branwell are all arguably examples of flawed masculinity, a theme which resonates very strongly in the Brontë sisters’ books. Some people have indeed suggested that Branwell was the inspiration for Heathcliff in Emily’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, and there is significant evidence to draw parallels between Branwell’s poetry and Heathcliff’s voice. Morrison’s Branwell can certainly be labelled, like Heathcliff, an ‘anti-hero’.

Come and watch the story of the Three Sisters unfold. If you’re a fan of their novels, you might recognise a few lines!

'We are Three Sisters' will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2–9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our online booking office.

Samuel Reid, June 4, 2018,

California Screamin’

I think we can all agree that Haworth in the 1840s was a pretty terrible place to live. By all accounts it's much improved these days, but it does leave me with a bit of a conundrum. How do I convey what it must be like to reside in such a gloomy place? In order to fully understand this, I took a trip to California.

No, not that one.

Very few people know that there's actually a village in central Scotland called California, on the bus route between Stirling and Bathgate, near Falkirk. It's one of those odd facts that pop up in trivia books and pub quizzes now and again, like how Ben Affleck is taller than Morgan Freeman, or that it's still a legal requirement in the UK for all beached whales and sturgeons to be offered to the ruling monarch. There's also a Moscow in Scotland. On reflection, the Scottish seem to have run out of names for places don't they? Either that or they have town planners who are engaged in a bizarre and furious game of town-naming one-upmanship.

Anyway. California. Try to envision the most dreary, dour and depressing village imaginable. The kind of place dreams go to die. Now imagine it raining. Pebbledash is lashed liberally across every building, and packs of feral children engage each other in brutal internecine gang warfare, fuelled by sectarianism and old fashioned, full sugar Irn Bru. I once saw a man sitting cross-legged in the middle of the road in California, sobbing with the throaty intensity of a man truly defeated by life. I like to imagine he was a bewildered tourist whose joy at getting such a reasonably priced ticket for the holiday of a lifetime had been overtaken by horror as he realised his error. I can picture him desperately moving from one dead-eyed citizen to another, pleading in increasingly frantic tones for directions to the Golden Gate Bridge. His breaking point was when his search ended in front of the dilapidated Golden Gate chippy where he was offered a soggy smoked sausage at a truly exorbitant price, causing him to collapse in a gibbering heap. California had won.

Actually, now I see it written down, California isn't like 1840s Haworth at all. Bit of a wasted trip really.

Probably should have spent that time learning my lines...

'We are Three Sisters' will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our booking site.

James McKean, May 24, 2018,

Introducing our latest innovation …

Hello. I’m Keith Begley, set designer for We are Three Sisters. I’d like to introduce our latest innovation: the back projection screen! No prizes for guessing that, after its successful introduction for our production of April in Paris, directors are already thinking of how they too can make use of it.

Our next production is about the Brontë sisters and though they lived relatively constrained lives in the Parsonage at Haworth, their minds were free to roam the wild moors that loomed large in their imaginations. It is quite a challenge to present their small parlour on stage, with as many as ten characters jostling for space. Putting their lives in context means putting the Moors in there as well! Now that is a challenge, but ‘can do’ technology has enabled us to try. Come and see if we have succeeded.

'We are Three Sisters' will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our Ticketsource website.

Keith Begley, May 20, 2018,

Bringing laughter and warmth to the Bronte home

“Cold and dreary”, “The wind never stops blowing!” “and there are midges”. So say the Bronte sisters about their home in Haworth in Blake Morrison’s We Are Three Sisters. Writing at twilight and sewing dutifully during the day, they live surrounded by gravestones, chauvinistic men and consider the immortality of writers.

Our own Bronte girls, Kate Davies, Maye Battersby and Esther Weetman have had fun bringing the siblings to life at the expense of the love-lorn doctor, the sweet-talking curate, the pompous teacher and of course their troubled brother Branwell. All watched over by the pistol firing Patrick Bronte.

But it is Verity Mann as Lydia Robinson, Branwell’s love interest, who is having the most fun. She flounces and pouts and looks down her nose at the parsonage residents. Her bete noire is Tabby, played by Lisa Kay, the Bronte housekeeper who gives as good as she gets. Amusingly, Sam Reid as Branwell (seen last season in The Graduate) is onto his second Mrs Robinson!

Re-visiting Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has also helped to bring this household to life - the models for literary hero, villain and supporting characters are found here in this parlour. And despite the wind, disease and moroseness, I hope we have brought some laughter and warmth to the Bronte home.

Meanwhile set designer, Keith is creating the Parsonage dining room ,Tim is creating a windy soundscape and Bob is shedding light on the whole procedure. Verity and Sandie are hot on the trail of costumes and props and Frank is keeping us all on text.

It is a real delight working with such a talented cast and crew and I hope you enjoy the results of our labours.

We are Three Sisters will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students).

Carol Davies, May 18, 2018,