Brontë by Polly Teale

By Charlotte Mathieson, University of Warwick

In May 2013, the Capitol Theatre in Manchester staged a production of the play Brontë, by Polly Teale. Originally staged by Shared Experience in 2005 (of which you can view a short trailer online), the play explores the life and writing of the Brontës through key episodes from their lives and scenes from their writing.

I went to watch the production with fellow Victorianist and life-writing specialist Amber Regis, and in this filmed conversation we discuss some of the key issues and ideas that the play raised, and talk about how it fits within the wider context of the cultural reception of the Brontë sisters. We focus in particular on issues of femininity, domesticity, and sexuality; life-writing and the intersections between life and fiction; and the afterlives of the Brontë sisters, looking ahead to Charlotte Brontë’s bicentenary in 2016.


To navigate to specific points in the film, the timings are roughly as follows:

  • Introduction on the play and production (00.00-05.40)
  • Bodies on stage – violence and sexuality (05.40-09.08)
  • Life-writing and the boundaries between life and fiction (09.08-15.17)
  • Brontë afterlives, legacies and bicentenaries (15.17-20.23)

Amber Regis is a lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Sheffield. She has published on nineteenth- and twentieth-century life-writing, and on the adaptation of life narratives across media — particularly film and television. Major figures in her research include Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Gaskell, John Addington Symonds, Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf.

Charlotte Mathieson is a Research Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Study. Her research centres on travel and mobility in nineteenth-century literature, with a particular interest in Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Charlotte Brontë.

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