The Full Bronte, The Space

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by Jack Solloway

Raucous, loose and incredibly silly, Scary Little Girls’ The Full Brontë is as much about the Brontës as is a bare arse and a lick across the arm. Subjected to both of these, audience member Clive was about as prepared as the rest of us for the romping, light entertainment cabaret about Yorkshire’s most famous sisterhood of writers.

Led by corseted compare Maria and her not-so-trusty Cornish sidekick Brannie, this low-fi production pretends to have high aspirations. As Maria frets and struts about the stage, delivering a gloriously pouty, eye-batting spoof of Kate Bush’s classic take on Kathy and Heathcliff’s tumultuous relationship, the duo remains on hand to assure us that such a literary journey is of greatest import.

‘Theatre, theatre, theatre,’ says Maria, her voice gradually turning to a whisper as she repeats the hallowed words, fluttering her hands to usher away an echo, which doesn’t exist, within a large music hall, which isn’t there. Brannie is on hand as props team, costume department, music corner and everything else under the sun. She’s well-meaning, but her attempts to deliver the thespy, board-walking gravitas Maria craves often comes to nought, eliciting a few laughs as she runs about the stage to pick up the pieces.

Amusingly, the show holds together as well as aeroplane mid-turbulence with a sticking plaster patching up a hole in the fuselage. Battling her used-and-abused intern for creative control, much of the comedy derives from Maria’s on-stage spats with Brannie. Both want to play Jane Eyre in their low-budget re-enactment. Brannie wears the beard this time but it’s Maria who ends up squatting and cock-eyed, talking all Northern as Joseph, the servant from Wuthering Heights.

The act tires after a while but features some enjoyable moments along the way. Whilst the main take-away seems to be that the Brontës’ mother was Cornish (courtesy of Brannie incessantly repping her heritage), the music does well to keep things moving. Tongue-in-cheek renditions of Yorkshire bands Pulp, Human League and Black Lace are as close to the moors as you’re going to get.

Although, there is a brief flicker of something genuinely moving in Maria’s performance as she sings Anne Brontë’s Bluebell poem. The moment is fleeting – a quick joke about mock-sincerity and the duo’s eye-rolling hijinks resume in haste. Comparisons to French and Saunders are probably generous, although there’s something to be said for the Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves style of humour, which railroads the audience into laughing like immature school kids who’ve just vandalised their bookshelf. The irreverence is fun,
somewhat knowing, but offers little else beyond that.

Staunch Brontëphiles and enthusiasts of stripteases based on nineteenth-century novelists may be disappointed by the distinct lack of either. The Full Bronte wears the clothes of a literary cabaret. But as its namesakes suggests, any illusions that they’ll be keeping up this disguise are stripped away soon enough. The gags are thrift-shop cheap and the puns deliciously overripe like low-hanging fruit. If you’re prepared to wear the silly hat and take a bite of the apple, you’ll be in for a good time.

The Full Bronte runs through 3 November.

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