Hyper-conceptual fringe theatre can be a fascinating brand of performance art, filled with new ideas that push boundaries and challenge our notions of what theatre can be. Yet, sometimes it also deserves a big dose of ridicule. Publick Transport Theatre Company fills that prescription brilliantly with We Are Brontë, a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the Brontë sisters’ gothic world. We’re treated to interpretive movement, gloomy lighting, and heaps upon heaps of symbolism, all of which is pointed out quite clearly by the cast, just in case you happen to miss it. Sarah Corbett and Angus Barr take on the personas of two clownish actors, one of whom is unwaveringly serious, and the other, constantly fretting over whether or not the audience understands what’s happening. He makes it unmistakably clear that they just want to show us the spirit of the Brontë cannon, rather than any literal elements. We watch them cluelessly stumble through their performance, relentlessly trying to get us on their side, all while giving the impression that they perhaps have never read a book by any of the Brontë sisters.
Granted, their gags land with varying levels of success, but the entire performance is filled with quirky humour, cleverly poking fun at pretentious, alternative theatre. However, when considering the show’s style, target audience, and history of performance venues, the question arises: at one point does a satirical show become the very thing it makes fun of? Still, the answer hardly matters when the show is so enjoyable.
We Are Brontë has now completed its week-long run at the Vaults festival, but keep your eyes open in case it, or another project by Publick Transport, makes another appearance in the near future.
By Joe Weinberg