The Moors is a play about self acceptance disguised as a disturbing, Gothic phantasm.
The play is based loosely on the Bronte sisters: one of the most famous families in literature who between them wrote important novels such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey. Much like the real life Bronte sisters, the locale the play takes place in is on the wild Yorkshire Moors. A place where everything wants to kill you.
The Moors is a play with a dreamlike quality at odds with the Victorian austerity of its setting. It features rooms that all look alike but are different and diary entries that manipulate the days of the week. Out here on the moors it’s hard to tell what is real and what is not. The bleakness is constant and it stretches out seemingly forever. The moors constancy is deceptive, and this perfectly mirrors the play. What appears as whimsy might just signal your demise.
In the manor on the moors, Agatha (Alex Aldrich) meets the new Governess (Zoe Boesen). Immediately we find that something is amiss. Master Branwell who wrote to hire the new governess is absent, as is any child who might require governing. We are shortly joined by Mallory (Grace Lowry), I mean Marjory, the maid, who is with child in parlor but typhus in the scullery… Or perhaps vice versa? Then the forgotten, deeply private, but desperate to bare herself Huldey (Anna Mc Carthy). Think it all sounds a bit twisted? Wait ’til you meet the dog!
It’s an exploration of seeking pleasure and the way we resist our desires, and The Moors doesn’t skimp on kink. The plot and dialogue are constantly engaged in a game of slave and master with the audience and characters. The pleasure of witty banter. The riding crop of mistrust and deviance held to your thigh. You’ll get the carrot and the stick in equal measure and love every second of it. It makes interesting commentary on sexuality and female arousal.
Along with the human drama the Bronte’s Mastiff (Dion Mills) discovers a wounded Moor Hen (Olga Makeeva) and attempts to nurse her back to health. Starved of companionship and affection he finds in her respite, leading to obsession. This allegory interweaves with the main narrative of the show and serves as one of the more sinister and comedic elements.
Most importantly between all the darkness and humour we see the effects of stifling oneself. As Oscar Wilde put it “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.” The giddy hedonism of self-interest. Torn between regiment and gluttony the characters battle with extremes. More than once we see how just a little bit of something different can corrupt our balance. How the thing that we rejected all along, maybe we did so with good reason. We are all slaves to our desires.
The performances are brilliant. There is even a rendition of ‘Wuthering Heights’, a la Kate Bush, accompanied by hilarious mandolin playing. The music and sound set the tone perfectly. The clock strikes midnight, madness echoes down the stairs, the fog rolls in eerie waves. The costumes are brilliant exaggerations of the style of the time. This staging of the show while modest is effective and more than enough to capture your attention. It even passes the Bechdel test with flying colours.
It’s a show that’s bitter and sweet. Doling out pleasure with pain. It’s feast and famine, it’s severe and jovial. The Moors is queer in every sense of the word and completely rapturous.