Words: Angela Ferguson. Photos: Jeff Price and Angela Ferguson.
We’d like to take a moment to say a huge well done to Tip Top Productions, who keep producing an array of excellent work which is a joy to watch.
Tip Top never rest on their laurels, that’s for sure, and as soon as one production finishes, they are on to the next, with some larger scale productions such as Gail Young’s comedy Cheshire Cats and classic musical Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat being staged at Theatr Clwyd in Mold in March and May respectively.
There’s also something for all the family over half term this week, with Tip Top stalwart Phil Cross turning his hand to a classic children’s tale with 3 Little Pigs. Phil has previously brought Roald Dahl’s The Twits and The Witches to the Forum.
Now we must hold our hands up here and confess that we haven’t been able to make it to as many Tip Top Productions as we’d like of late due to a seemingly ever-expanding range of commitments.
We did, however, manage to take a trip to the moors to catch the end of the run of Wuthering Heights. And boy, are we glad we did.
Where do we begin? Let’s start with the hair – the cascading curls of the female members of the cast and the fierce free-flowing locks of Heathcliff were stunning. Then there were breathtakingly beautiful costumes galore, alongside an epic gothic set providing the backdrop to this iconic tale of revenge and destructive love.
The consensus amongst those audience members that we spoke to after the show seemed to be that this was a mesmerising and gripping performance and one that we were so glad we had experienced. Once again, Tip Top transported us from the busy streets of bustling Chester to a gothic supernatural world revolving around the doomed Heathcliff and tormented Cathy.
The intimate setting of the Forum Studio Theatre was transformed into the legendary Wuthering Heights, in contrast to the splendour of nearby Thrushcross Grange.
And would it be wrong to mention here that our immersion in the life and loves of those living by the unforgiving moors of Yorkshire was interspersed with an inner soundtrack of another British icon, Kate Bush. Yes, she whose haunting voice breathed new life into this ghostly tale and stole our hearts back in the heady days of the seventies.
Anyway, that’s enough self-indulgent reminiscing for now. The talented team behind Tip Top made full use of the intimate Forum Studio Theatre for this production, with an immersive performance which saw the tragic drama happening just feet away from us and often even closer.
The set was splendidly gothic, from the dark environs of Wuthering Heights itself placed in contrast next to the elegance of Thrushcross Grange nearby. The moors were skilfully depicted above, with an ivy-clad and suitably gothic eyrie on which Emily Brontë (Katie Deyes) sat to gaze down upon the wonder of her creations, with a heavy emphasis on the shade rather than the light.
Indeed, it was a clever move by director Laura Coard to make Brontë our narrator in this adaptation, complete with notebook and pen and the ability to break through the fourth wall and address us, the audience. There were a number of truly poignant moments where Emily moved in and out of the action, observing and seemingly worrying about the dark forces that had been created by her own hand.
There was a perfectly haunting moment where Cathy (Sophie Wolstencroft) appeared as a ghostly vision in a flowing white dress. And our hearts were in our mouths as we witnessed the wide-ranging devastation that unfolded in this epic tale of destructive love and revenge.
At the heart of it all was the strong and steady, comforting presence of dedicated housekeeper Nelly Dean (Rachel Sumner), who even regaled us with a captivating folk song at one point.
Tip Top have once again excelled in bringing top notch drama to the heart of Chester. They really are a gem of a team of talented and dedicated people. We are truly fortunate to have them in our city. May we respectfully suggest that if you get the opportunity to see a Tip Top production for yourself in the near future then you really should go. And who wouldn’t want a heady dose of sheer escapism, Tip Top-style, in contrast to our day to day lives and responsibilities. This has been a wondrous reminder that the Forum Studio Theatre and the Tip Top team really are something to be treasured here in Chester.
The Forum Studio Theatre is located at the rear of the Forum Shopping Centre, right by the award-winning Chester Market.
We give Wuthering Heights a gothtastic five stars.
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