Madwomen in the Attic is a journey down a very well-trodden path. The novels of the Bronte sisters have fallen victim to a variety of adaptations, yet this particular attempt manages to stand out by picking and choosing which aspects of the works to adapt, and which to leave by the wayside.
Rosanna Suppa shines in her role as Tony. She combines a feisty personality with moments of raw emotion, rounded off with a healthy dose of biting cynicism. Her character is the most developed of those on stage, and stands out all the more for this.
Moments of honesty and emotion are what really make this play, and this culminates in Isabel and Helen’s conversation which brings to a close the hour-long piece of theatre. Julia Kass and Kate Reid’s performances are heartfelt and gripping, and it finally seems to be the point at which the women’s stories become affecting. The premise of the play – a support group for victims of domestic abuse – suggests that the show will be filled with these emotionally draining heart to hearts; it is only really this final scene that delivers. Occasionally the chemistry between the characters falls flat, but this scene is the pinnacle of the play.
Madwomen in the Attic’s key limitation is its performance space. The venue is intimate to say the least. The small theatre in C Nova Venues has the first row of the audience almost on stage with the actors, and a character often sits at the end of said front row throughout the performance. It is more suited to a one-man show; with five characters on stage – often all at the same time – the space is simply too full. For large parts of the show, one of the characters is at the back of the room. Stylistic choice or not, this positioning means that just about anything this character does on stage is hidden from the majority of the audience.
The show is promising and would hopefully flourish in a venue more suited to its requirements. Aoife Kennan’s script manages to slip in witty references to the Bronte sisters’ works, without giving too heavy handed a nod to specific plot points. The audience benefits from a knowledge of the play’s source materials, but it is certainly not essential.