Successful art is supposed to cause a reaction. In this sense I would say that A Bronte Burlesque, at the Edmonton, Canada Fringe Festival, certainly impacted me. I left the theatre emotionally dented.
The play is sort of an over-eroticized version of the lives of four nineteenth century members of a literary family: Charlotte (Andréa Jaworsky), Emily (Ellen Chorley), Anne (Delia Barnett) and Branwell (Evan Hall). This story requires a little history, so bear with me.
The Bronte family lived very poorly in the expansive moorlands of Haworth. They all lived very short lives – Charlotte was the last surviving member and she failed to see her 40th birthday. All were creative and they honed their crafts together. The sisters published their now famous novels under the pseudonyms Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell.
The play begins after the death of Branwell, Anne and Emily — with an ailing Charlotte. There’s all of the good bits of a melodrama: Broken down family dynamics, brother VS sisters tension, matriarchal mind games and creepy creepy incest. There’s sexy dancing and strip tease – which is made somewhat disturbing by the fact that everyone on stage is supposed to be related. These are the last moments of Charlotte and her siblings return to bring light to how dysfunctional her family really was — I guess some people just never let things go.
As a burlesque the play fails to deliver the lighthearted and crude gestures typical of the genre and instead it falls somewhere in between pseudo-intellectual surrealism and just really fucking disturbing. Where I sought titillation I found traumatization. As soon as the icky incestuous plot began to thicken I thought to myself that the posters should probably have some sort of trigger warning when dealing so blatantly flouting the bounds of social acceptability.
Transgression is mentally stimulating to say the least. I think I went through the five stages of grief jammed into the tight little New City Compound. I was disturbed and at times wanted to run out screaming, but I was never bored.
To perform in this play certainly requires courage — a trait the actors possessed in spades, but there was a slight bit of awkwardness about the strip tease that may be owing to the restriction of the small stage on which they were performing, or it may be something else. Who knows? Maybe I am projecting my own uncomfortable feelings onto the actors.
I would recommend going to see the play – it’s certainly a Fringe original. I would also recommend priming yourself with a drink or two before viewing. And for the love of God, don’t make the play Date Night. Don’t. Fucking. Do. It.
You can view A Bronte Burlesque at the Fringe Festival in Edmonton, Canada. It plays in Venue 25, New City Legion, 8130 Gateway Blvd. Tickets are $12.50
Saturday, August 18, 2012 – 6:00 PM
Sunday, August 19, 2012 – 11:15 PM
Monday, August 20, 2012 – 9:30 PM
Tuesday, August 21, 2012 – 11:15 PM
Thursday, August 23, 2012 – 6:00 PM
Friday, August 24, 2012 – 9:30 PM
Saturday, August 25, 2012 – 7:45 PM
Sunday, August 26, 2012 – 4:30 PM