Emerging Australian playwright Emme Hoy will make her mainstage debut at Sydney Theatre Company this month with her whip-smart, contemporary adaptation of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – on at the Roslyn Packer Theatre from 21 June 2022.
Directed by STC’s Resident Director Jessica Arthur (Grand Horizons, Wonnangatta), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall follows the story of Helen Graham and her mysterious arrival in the town of Lindenhope. She has a young son in tow but no husband in sight – a concept which so shocked English society in 1848 that Brontë’s sister (Jane Eyre’s Charlotte Brontë) sought to prevent the book’s republication.
Arthur has assembled a stellar cast to bring this charming, passionate period drama to life, including Tuuli Narkle (Black is the New White tour), Remy Hii (The Golden Age, Crazy Rich Asians), Danielle Catanzariti (Pinnochio), Tara Morice (A Cheery Soul), Ben O’Toole (The Harp in the South), Steve Rodgers (Power Plays), Eliza Scott in their STC debut, Anthony Taufa (Home, I’m Darling) and Nikita Waldron (Rules For Living).
Arthur said the production would appeal to literature and theatre lovers alike, and continue society’s love affair with period dramas following the success of shows like Bridgerton and The Gilded Age. “Not only do we crave escapism as a society, there’s also something really fun about breaking down the rules of performativity, especially when it comes to identity,” she said.
“In this play, we are presented with a set of rules and manners about how to behave, and then we break them apart – just like Anne presented the expectations of the time and then very openly tore them to shreds in her work. Hoy’s adaptation of the story perfectly encapsulates this, it’s a great combination of that push and pull – the classic and contemporary,” said Arthur.
Hoy, a member of Sydney Theatre Company’s inaugural Emerging Writers Group in 2017, is not only the same age as Brontë when she wrote the book, but has infused her adaptation with Brontë’s same irreverence, wit and flexibility of form – inspired by sources as diverse as Fleabag and Pride and Prejudice.
“I read Anne Brontë at university and remember being completely floored by the contrast between her writing and that of her sisters,” said Hoy.
“In adapting her work I wanted to stay true to Brontë’s boldness and playfulness – as well as her rebellious, political take on the tropes of her sisters’ genre … so I decided to use a flashback structure with direct address to the audience to reference the epistolary form of the novel, and the intimacy she creates between the reader and the characters.”
Hoy, who also wrote new scenes for STC’s 2018 production of Saint Joan, said she hope audiences would delight in the “beauty and scope of a period drama onstage.”
“The characters are strikingly modern, and deal with issues that are sadly still so relevant,” said Hoy. “At its core this is a story of hope, which cannot be more necessary in 2022.”
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Season: 25 June – 16 July 2022 (previews: 21 – 24 June)
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: Tuuli Narkle in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – photo by Rene Vaile