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A new take on a gothic masterpiece

Laura Peppas

When she was told she would be playing Catherine Earnshaw, the strong-willed heroine of literary classic Wuthering Heights, actress Gemma Willing admits to having “a bit of a cry.”

“It’s such a beautiful, tragic story and to play the role of Catherine I just feel like I keep having to pinch myself – it’s one of those roles that you can really sink your teeth into, “ Gemma says.

And though Emily Bronte’s story of the intense, ill-fated love between Catherine and Heathcliff has been adapted time and time again for television, film and theatre, audiences still can’t get enough of the Gothic masterpiece; which Gemma believes is due to the flawed nature of the characters.

“Catherine and Heathcliff are very human, they have so many flaws, and they’re not trying to hide them in any way, they still love each other till they die and they’re willing to embrace that person for everything they are,” she says.

“It’s one of the great love stories, and that story is always going to be timeless.”

For this particular production, by Shake & Stir, Gemma says audiences can expect plenty of “cinematic techniques” on stage.

“For certain scenes there will be an AV projection which will project inner feelings and their subconscious in the backdrop so that the audience can see but the character can’t necessarily see, so there’s this constant battle between the tip of the iceberg and what’s underneath it all,” she says.

“We’re also bringing a lot of natural elements to the show, there’ll be a lot of fire and wind on the stage which will add to the experience of the show.”

Gemma Willing 123

Gemma Willing

Gemma says she first discovered Wuthering Heights at university, and was immediately drawn to the character of Catherine.

“Even though she’s constantly at war with herself I still admire her passion, her free spirit – it’s very inspiring,” she says.

“It’s just this constant battle and conflict of what she thinks is right, whether she should go for the nature, which is Heathcliff, or the culture of the time and the society, which is Edgar. She’s trapped in a time that doesn’t really allow her to speak her mind and do what she wants to do and she’s judged for that.

“I think it’s very common for people in general to have that battle between the head and the heart and what they want to do, so I really like those humane qualities in her that she’s constantly trying to figure herself out.”

Recently seen on the big screen in the Australian film Looking For Grace, Gemma is also a seasoned performer on stage having studied theatre in Perth.

“I think there’s something very special about theatre, it’s very difficult to describe but you can be there and every performance is different and only the people who see that performance get that experience,” she says.

the essentials

What: Shake & Stir’s Wuthering Heights

Where: Canberra Theatre Centre

When: 9 – 12 March

How much: Tickets from $30



Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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