‘Out on the winding, windy moors,’ sang Kate Bush in her 1978 homage to Emily Brontë’s romantic classic, Wuthering Heights. Those lyrics may need a re-think now that British Asian theatre company Tamasha has got its hands on the novel.
Gone are the windswept Yorkshire fields, replaced instead by the scorched deserts of Rajasthan, the largest state in India, while the tumultuous relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff is played out by Shakuntala, the headstrong daughter of a merchant and Krishan, the wild street urchin her father adopts.
‘The main thing was to choose a landscape just as epic and harsh as the Yorkshire moors,’ says director, Kristine Landon-Smith. ‘And Rajasthan is perfect. Where you’ve got wind and rain in Yorkshire, you’ve got heat and dryness in the desert – it’s man against the elements. In the novel, Heathcliff and Cathy run out into a thunder storm – here Shakuntala and Krishan run into a sand storm. Great theatrical possibilities were presented to us by that landscape, and it’s worked well.’
Tamasha has won widespread acclaim for productions such as Strictly Dandia and East is East, but Brontë does Bollywood is a whole different ball game. Landon-Smith is confident that even literary purists will be won over. ‘You can absolutely recognise all those classic scenes from the book,’ she says. ‘And Bollywood has huge themes of love, death, destiny, unrequited love, good and evil, just like Wuthering Heights – so we thought it made sense to marry them together.’
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 21–Sat 25 Apr