Even if only through Kate Bush’s haunting musical interpretation of Wuthering Heights, few people are unfamiliar with Brontë sisters: Charlotte, Emily and Anne.
Most too have enjoyed a day trip to their family home, though not their birthplace, at Haworth Parsonage.
We’re programmed to believe the spinsters – Charlotte eventually married later in life – lived an austere, soulless, monochrome life with writing their only passion.
So, the prospect of sitting through two and a half hours of a play about their supposed sombre lives, written by Yorkshireman Blake Morrison only seven years ago, might appear daunting.
But don’t be dissuaded from visiting The Millgate at Delph for Saddleworth Players’ adaptation of We are Three Sisters.
Not only is the production up to the consistently high standard you expect from the Players.
But it brings into sharp focus the individuality of the siblings – now revered as three of Britain’s most celebrated writers – and occasionally stripped of the dowdiness that attached itself to them.
Charlotte (Kate Davies) is the practical mother figure, Emily (Maye Battersby), a shy, yet empathetic figure while Anne (Esther Weetman) is the youngest and sickliest of the girls but no less spirited and determined.
Yet, it wouldn’t have been inappropriate to introduce a bracket after the play’s title to include a dysfunctional brother.
Branwell Brontë, played admirably and with suitable loucheness by Samuel Reid, is an equal part of the siblings’ drama.
In real life and in this stage portrayal he gradually squandered his considerable artistic ability, viewing life through the bottom of empty spirit bottles and the material gains offered by a blousy mistress: Verity Mann, an alluring femme fatale, as Lydia Robinson.
But it is the girls, all tragically dying young and out lived by father, Patrick Brontë (John Weetman), whose existences and experiences we intrude upon throughout Morrison’s considerable nod to Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
For a trio craving anonymity with their writings, adopting male pseudonyms while trying to find publishers, they’d be aghast with Brontë mania that now surrounds their lives and works.
Yet the beauty of We are Three Sisters is the thread of humour that runs through the dialogue and observations around the characters.
Martin Taylor as the Teacher and Lisa Kay as ageing maid and housekeeper, Tabby, are given such licence; Kay is particularly convincing.
Sam Rowlands, as the curate, is the eye candy who tries to woo both younger Brontës while James McKeane’s lovelorn, past his sell by date nameless Doctor is a tragi-comedic figure.
We are Three Sisters, sponsored by Friezland Properties, runs every night until Saturday, June 9. For more information or tickets visit www.saddleworthplayers.org.uk or ring 01457 874644.
Pictures ©Stuart Coleman