A musical, based on the untold story of famous historical figures, set to a modern soundtrack and delivered by a diverse cast. Wasted – an edgy new rock show based on the lives of Brontë sisters Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother Branwell – takes the best of Hamilton, but goes in its own, very British direction.
Whereas Hamilton uses rap, hip-hop, and R&B to explore the birth of a nation, here rock music fits the Brontë family’s saga astonishingly well. It’s the authors of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights as we’ve never seen them; a drug-fuelled crash and burn story from obscurity to celebrity to their untimely deaths. There’s not a bonnet in sight.
They didn’t care what anyone thought of them
Wasted is still set in the 19th Century, but it’s through the lens of a rock documentary, playing with the recognisable beats in those films. There’s the poor upbringing, ill-health, unrequited love and family feuds. “The tragic genius didn’t start with Amy Winehouse, or Elvis Presley or Jeff Buckley,” says Natasha Barnes, who plays Charlotte Brontë.
Adam Lenson, the show’s director, expands: “They played against everyone’s preconception of what women from that time and place should be doing. These were amazing, rebellious, feminist miracle workers who wrote these extraordinary things. Their writing was so imaginative and so ahead of its time, and when the world said they weren’t interested, they wrote more. They didn’t care what anyone thought of them.”
This story might live in the 1800s, but its tale of gender politics acutely resonates with today’s social movements. Likewise, the diverse ethnicity of its cast is in sharp contrast to the all-white world typically seen in most Bronte productions.