UNCW’s ‘The Moors’ mixes the class and comedy of 19th century Brontë with the horror and suspense of Hitchcock – The Seahawk
Set in the hauntingly bleak moors of England, this story presents a rollercoaster ride of events and secrets that can’t help but draw audiences in, only to keep them in the dark. The series’ early uncertainty is reminiscent of Hitchcock mysteries such as Rebecca, with all the beauty, class and attitude of society women in Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre.
The English moors are an otherworldly place brought to life by a set designed by Randall A. Enlow, an associate professor at UNCW who specializes in scenic and lighting design, who is stuck in a time loop. Projections on the back wall and the sounds of rain, thunder, lightning and wind create this prison and a sense of being trapped in a way of life from which these characters have no way of escaping. Period costumes and a setting painted to look like an old English mansion define the period, while in-jokes and introspective dialogue present the characters in a way that proves there’s more going on here than meets the eye. to see. Part of the truth may be a mystery to the cast as well as the audience.
In the opening scene, a governess named Emilie, played by Maddy Tamms, arrives at the mansion in search of Master Branwell, a man she had exchanged letters with but never actually meets, and the child whose she’s supposed to take care of. Emilie had answered an advertisement and had written to Master Branwell, the brother of the two sisters currently living in the house. Upon arrival, Emilie asks to see Master Branwell and she mentions the nature of the letters to be bold enough to “keep them to read in her room”, but Agatha insists he is unavailable.
The two sisters Agatha, played by Julia Murray, and Huldey, played by Lillian Ferguson, are opposite people in relation to the personality of their character. Agatha’s humor fills the room like a secret in desperate need of a listener, while Hudley’s almost childlike excitement and near-obsession with Emilie and her arrival characterize her early on as a young character seeking desperate for something to change in his life. Later, it is revealed that Branwell lives alone in the attic and on his deathbed, and that the real purpose of Emilie’s arrival is to have the child with him.
The Mastiff, played by Cole Warren, is the family dog, but he delivers soliloquies when around other characters or alone. In these moments, he asks questions about God and about the identity of God. He’s a representation of status on the show, but his life faces introspective challenges that can’t help but evoke emotion in audiences. He’s a beast with a benevolent touch that directly impacts and eventually ends his budding relationship with the Moorhen, played by Amber Bullock. The Mastiff wants to be active, protective, alongside the Moor Hen all the time, but the Moor Hen desires space and distance.
“She’s someone who wants to live the moment when she and the Mastiff go head-to-head,” Bullock said. “He is constantly thinking about the future and what it means for them. However, she just knows that she steals, and that she finds food and that’s what she does, that’s what she always will do no matter what relationship she develops.
Kathryn Dowdee plays Mallory, Marjory and Margaret. These three are all one character who create a comedic, mischievous persona that is never fully understood. The scene is painted to look like a room in the house called the dining room, Emily’s bedroom, and the living room. When she’s Mallory, she has the baby, which is comically played because Mallory isn’t actually pregnant. When she’s Marjory, she has typhus, but she’s not really sick, and when she’s an author, her name is Margaret. This trifecta paints a picture of other characters who have deep-rooted desires but don’t understand how to fulfill them due to their lifestyle of isolation and required simplicity.
“The difficult part of playing Marjory, Mallory and Margaret was the process of dissecting the different personalities of the three and how they connect to each other,” Dowdee said. “Mallory has class, and she can hold her tongue, Marjory has angst and fire, both are smart and observant. However, Margaret is both Mallory and Marjory. She has class and fire, and she won’t betray her plans by slipping in. It was finding out that Margaret shows up much earlier than anyone knows when she begins her plan. That led me to my ultimate realization that Margaret is the real character among the roles.
Dowdee’s facial expressions in the series are the basis of his character. The way she moves slowly and quietly across the stage invites the audience to focus on other things while she manipulates the situation to get what she wants. She is the definition of attitude and sass on the show. His expressions set the mood for the audience as well as the stage.
Love, humor, philosophy, the absurd and horror are the major themes of this show. The uncertainty of time, but especially the absence of a concrete definition of time, is an important factor in the show.
“With the show set in the moors, there’s the idea that time moves differently, almost as if the show is living in its own pocket reality,” Bullock said. “That’s why days can be started over or skipped completely, that’s also why the house only has one ‘room’, the script does it so it can live better outside the realm of normal , which is so cool!”
Tamms has other thoughts on how time works on the show. “My take was that since the moors are so isolated and there’s not much to do, time seems to go by its own pace there,” she said. “Characters also measure these durations in their own way. Everything always seems to take longer than expected, or maybe some things go faster in the moors!
The characters in this show represent an interconnected and somewhat twisted reality of the effects of isolation, obsession and humanity. Everyone carries a burden somewhere within them, but they are all the same kind. They are all linked, not only by family ties, but by the values that emerge from their dialogue and their desires that are buried deep within them, sometimes expressed through violence. Their silent and isolated lifestyles have twisted these characters’ minds and possibly trapped them in the moors forever.
“Les Maures” is deeply intertwined with the pitfalls and beauty of humanity. It examines isolation, horror, love and comedy. It’s the human condition with a twist of hate and incredibly funny relationships that push standard ideas of what a relationship should look like. This show is complex and asks questions that can only invite the audience to reflect on the concepts of pain, love, anxiety, loss and identity.
This show was amazing and the actors were the centerpieces in creating a world that audiences couldn’t help but be invested in. “The Moors” is a must see.
“The Moors” runs from March 31-April 3 and April 7-10. The show starts at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, with an option to live stream.