The Brontë family are synonymous with some of the most celebrated literary works of all time. Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall grace the shelves of most devotees of classic literature but the Brontë siblings lived a life filled with tragedy; it is this, rather than their famous novels which forms the basis for Lemon Squeeze Productions online festival showing, At Home with the Brontës.
The least well known of the siblings – Branwell Brontë (Stu Jackson) – takes centre stage first, giving a frank account of his troubles and not just a hint of bitterness about how, although reputably considered the most talented of the family, he never really made his mark in the arts world. The most tantalising question he leaves the viewer with is whether Branwell was the true author of Wuthering Heights.
Emily (Julie Munrow) obviously refutes the claim as she begins her monologue which, for any Brontë enthusiasts, is an interesting take on the real lives of the 19th-century writers. Considering the difficulties of having to turn a stage production into an online event, the piece is well-shot and edited and gives a strong suggestion that it would be a popular mid-afternoon showing at a normal Edinburgh Fringe.
Charlotte (Sarah Archer) and Anne (Emma Hopkins) are filmed together demonstrating an interesting dynamic where Charlotte – who eventually survived all her siblings – was a hard, ruthless character who sacrificed much for the good of the family while always considering herself a cut above the others. Anne tries hard to prove her place in the family but having already lost three sisters and a brother she recognises the tuberculosis cough which has taken hold of her and so begins a rather melancholic conversation about how Charlotte will go on alone.
Joan Greening has written a fascinating play centred around the turbulent lives of a treasured, if somewhat dysfunctional, family and their story is certainly filled with drama. However, this play is advertised as a comedy drama and there is not much, if any, comedy. If Lemon Squeeze Productions want to ramp up their efforts for Fringe 2021, they will have to inject some laughs – then, they may well have a winning Fringe formula.