Enjoyably preposterous rock musical about the Brontë siblings
It’s amazing what you can do with a raised wooden platform, four actors and a band. You could, for example, stage a very small rock gig. Or you could put on a play about the Brontë siblings, from their frustratingly bonded lives in Haworth, the rise of their ambitions, the sisters’ few hot years in the limelight and the untimely deaths that met three-quarters of them within just eight months.
‘Wasted’ does both.
If you’re a literature fan hoping for an evocative exploration of the lives of brilliant Anne, Charlotte, Emily, and mediocre Branwell, this isn’t it. Christopher Ash’s score has a handful of thrashing bangers, but the first half of this nearly three-hour production would have been more audible and less of a drag if about a third of the songs had been dialogue. Those moved by the passion and intensity of the Brontës’ novels might find some of Carl Miller’s lyrics (‘Some curates are nervy / some are pervy’) a bit off-key.
But if you’re watching a rock musical about the Brontës, you’re probably more likely to be someone who read ‘Wuthering Heights’ and thought it was the kind of emo you wanted to get behind. With its frequent comedic turns, larger-than-life drama, gawking sentimentality and, above all, the songs that are bangers, ‘Wasted’ has been created for you.
Natasha J Barnes’s Charlotte Brontë is the most complex character, hinting at quiet inner turmoil and a perceptive kindness. Barnes has a gorgeous, powerful voice and gives a rip-roaring performance in the audience-pleaser ‘(Extra)ordinary Woman’, about the writing of ‘Jane Eyre’. Molly Lynch’s Anne Brontë is marriage-obsessed and a bit wet, and Matthew Jacobs Morgan’s Branwell is a humorous manchild.
Siobhan Athwal’s Emily steals the show, snaking around like Fairuza Balk in ‘The Craft’, her voice swirling between haunting high notes and sullen thunder. Athwal’s rap as Poet Laureate Robert Southey (who advised Charlotte that women shouldn’t write), and her performance of ‘Before My Time’, a song about being goth, is worth the price of admission alone.
Too long and yet crammed edge-to-edge with hilarity, shouting and big fat guitar riffs, ‘Wasted’ isn’t for literary types or anyone who likes nuance in their theatre. But if Victoriana and ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ are up your street, you might have found your play.