It is an utter shame for Oxford theatre goers, that Wuthering Heights is not yet sold out completely, extended for another two weeks, and watched from the windows of Wadham College by those who could not get a seat in the garden.

And shame is not the only problem here; it’s also a form of self punishment, because shows of this quality would not be come back to a city that is unable to fill such a tiny audience.

So, you’ve been warned. And now to the proper review:

Wuthering Heights, staged at Wadham College gardens by Oxford Shakespeare Company, is one of those shows, which are sometimes branded as ‘unlucky’ or ‘misplaced’, because reviewers are unable to explain why they do not enjoy larger audiences.

At first it is a phenomenon quite difficult to explain, given that Emily Brontë’s novel is an absolute classic of English literature, Wadham College gardens are one of the most beautiful places in which one might wish to spend an evening, and Oxford Shakespeare Company is a renowned brand.

At the same time, the audience for classics is present in Oxford. Both Rose Theatre’s success at Blenheim Palace and sold out Shakespeare’s Macbeth staged at Oxford Castle prove it beyond any doubt.

But the explanation is quite easy: the risk taken by the company’s management scared the audience off, because the human mind wants to follow simple paths: a Shakespearian troupe is supposed to stage plays, not novels, and Shakespeare’s plays, not anyone else’s. In Oxford, not in Yorkshire, for God’s sake, one might add.

Oxford Mail:

And theatre goers are sadly only humans, who value their time and money and do not like to take chances.

Those who look for experimental theatre do not look at Oxford Shakespeare Company, while hardcore Shakespeare’s fans would probably strongly disagree when told, that Brontë’s novel is an equal theatrical material to the works of the Bard.

The former go elsewhere, while the latter would much rather embed themselves for the evening in yet another staging of Macbeth, The Tempest or, ideally, A Midsummer Night Dream. (‘Oh, how lovely it fits the college garden atmosphere!’)

Read more: Macbeth at Oxford Castle is a minimalist triumph

For all of those in the middle, there is hardly any bait: Wuthering Heights exists in our minds as a dark, wintery novel. It associates itself immediately – and quite correctly – with an abandoned graveyard in Yorkshire, whipped by rain and where cold winds bend leafless trees– the only mourners for lovers torn apart by the brutal social standards of the 19th century. One might think that there is hardly any reason to stage it in the summer in a beautiful garden full of fragrant flowers and where doves hover over the spectators’ heads.

And they are all very wrong indeed.

Directed by Michael Oakley, and dramatised by April de Angelis, Wuthering Heights is simply a theatrical masterclass.

It is by far the best show staged in Oxford so far this year. It might, and without a doubt should, be finally transferred to London and shown there with pride as a marvel forged in the country to prove that theatre in the 21st century can still defy all the rules set by economical circumstances for production teams, which state that all talent must be sucked and ruthlessly monetized in the West End.

Oxford Mail:

It is not only that Wuthering Heights is simple, smart, moving, eye-wateringly beautiful, staged in a place that elevates it to another dimension, a very definition of living theatre, which is pure pleasure and eye-opening at the same time. It is that the abundance of talent on stage and behind it is so absolutely stunning.

One might only hope that this group of eight incredibly talented actors and 10 fantastic people from the production team will stay together forever, because when these talents are combined, the possibilities are truly endless.

Read more: Joseph is big, brash and deliciously camp

Seeing Wuthering Heights is not only a great experience, but also a service done to Oxford as a theatrical centre and to theatre in general. Personally, I wouldn’t mind spending every evening for the rest of the summer under the trees of Wadham College at all.


Go along

  • Wuthering Heights is at Wadham College until August 17.
  • Mon-Sat 7.30pm, matinees on Saturdays, 2.30pm.
  • Tickets are £24/19/12
  • Cast: Helen Belbin, Alice Welby, Tyler Conti, James Shelton, Rachel Winters, Thomas Fitzgerald, Dominic Charman, Christopher Laishley.
  • Book tickets online at