Phoebe Pryce adapts to life as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

A world of mystery, intrigue, betrayal and love has been unleashed onto the stage in award-winning playwright Deborah McAndrew’s emotionally supercharged adaptation of Anne Brontë’s powerful 19th century novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Brontë’s ardent story of a woman’s fight against oppression, which challenged the social norms and laws of the time, comes to York Theatre Royal, in a co-production with Octagon Theatre, Bolton, later this month.

The production stars RADA graduate, Phoebe Pryce, daughter of veteran actor Jonathan Pryce, as Helen Graham, a woman fighting terrible odds.

“I’d never read a Brontë book before, I am thoroughly ashamed to say, and had not heard of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” Phoebe admitted to Stage Review.

“Now it’s my very favourite. I can’t believe it’s not better known. I don’t really know why she’s the lesser known of the sisters and this novel was pushed to one side.

“The book was ahead of its time and was shocking when first published. Helen Graham is an extraordinary woman, incredibly brave and courageous, and fighting to overcome the most overwhelming and awful circumstances”.

In recent years Anne Brontë has become recognised as a brilliant novelist in her own right, despite often being overshadowed by her elder sisters, Charlotte and Emily.

Many scholars, biographers and feminist literary critics have praised Anne for her forward-thinking, creative talent and ability to write about issues that affected the everyday lives of women.

Director, Elizabeth Newman, artistic director of Octagon Bolton Theatre, said: “Deborah’s adaptation has beautifully captured the passion and the bravery of Anne Brontë’s exquisite novel, which follows one woman’ s fight for independence against all odds.

“It is such an amazing privilege to be producing this brand new adaptation in Bolton and at York Theatre Royal, who we are very excited to be working with for this production.

“Audiences will be transported into a world of mystery, intrigue, betrayal and love.”

In 19th century Yorkshire, a mysterious young widow, Helen Graham, and her son arrive at the desolate estate of Wildfell Hall. Isolating herself from the village, she soon becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation.

Intrigued by this beautiful and enigmatic woman, a young farmer, Markham, gradually falls in love. Torn apart with her attraction to Markham and the secrets of her past, Helen finally reveals the shocking history she thought she had left behind.​

Deborah McAndrew’s previous writing work includes An August Bank Holiday Lark which won Best New Play, UK Theatre Awards in 2014.

Her poetic adaptation of Cyrano for Northern Broadsides is currently touring the UK, and is visiting York Theatre Royal this week (Read Stage Review’s four-star verdict

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall stars Phoebe Pryce and Michael Peavoy (The Musketeers & Doctors, BBC; Britannia Waves the Rules, Royal Exchange Theatre; and Hamlet, National Theatre) as Gilbert Markham, Nicole Lecky, Marc Small, Colin Connor, Phil Starnier, Sue Twist and Natasha Davidson.

Sharing the role of Arthur, son of Helen Graham, are local young actors Ben Wood, 10, and Alexander Savkovic, 11, both from York.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall plays at Octagon Bolton Theatre until April 22 and moves to York Theatre Royal, to run from April 26 – May 6.

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