It has been a whirlwind rehearsing and performing The Moors with An Other Theatre Company over the past few months. I am in the unique position of not only acting in the show, but also penning our first blog post for this production as our Literary Manager. What an honor!
I have, over the course of working on this show, given much thought and contemplation to the moors and what they represent within the world of this play. When the naive and romantic governess, Emilie, arrives on the moors, she has a sure knowledge of her role and place in the context of this 1840s...ish world. In her words, “I’ve moved from house to house my whole life. There’s always a lady of the house who can’t abide me, a gentleman of the house who pursues me, a child who dies of something awful--and then I move on. Wherever I go, it is all the same, and I’m always a stranger.”
Before arriving on the moors, time and place are tangible to Emilie. She has been employed in many houses, but what she sees, “does not change so very much.” She sings lullabies to children who hate her. She finds drinking unladylike. These are her concrete and definite given circumstances. Early on in the process, I saw many similarities between Emilie’s character arc and that of Nora’s in A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. Both women function as marionette puppets. They perform their roles as dictated by society without complaint. Until...they look up and discover they are not their own, autonomous beings. They have been manipulated and exploited time and time again. It isn’t until they cut themselves free of those societal strings that they realize what they truly seek: uncertainty, mercilessness, and power.
The moors are the haunting embodiment of uncertainty, mercilessness, and power. Time and place are intangible. They are simultaneously changing and unchanging. They are concrete yet...malleable. Yet, Emilie moves forward in her uncertainty. What has happened to Master Branwell? Where is the child she is to watch? And why, above all others, was she chosen? Why her? It is a dangerous quest for knowledge Emilie embarks on. As she discovers the answers to these questions, she comes face to face with the mercilessness of others. It is through this mercilessness she discovers the extent of her true power.
AGATHA: I cannot stand weakness. I cannot stand it in myself, and I cannot abide it in others. There is no weakness in the moors. When I come out here, I am surrounded by merciless strength.
EMILIE: But mightn’t it turn on you? Mightn’t you be devoured by it?
AGATHA: Yes, absolutely.
If I could extend an invitation to you, dear reader, I would ask you to ponder the following: What scares you? What are your uncertainties? How can you face the bleak, the unforgiving, and the terrifying with merciless strength? Where does your true power lie? In the hands of others? Or in your own?
Why not take a walk on the moors and find out?
Chelsea Hickman Literary Manager An Other Theatre Company