HERE’S the pitch. One of the most powerful love stories ever written by the great feminist writer of her age is brought to the stage by our leading feminist playwright.

To put the flesh on those bones, Emily Bronte’s impassioned Yorkshire novel of torrid, forbidden love and revenge, Wuthering Heights, is reignited by April de Angelis, who has cast fresh eyes on her original 2008 adaptation for a new premiere by the Oxford Shakespeare Company and Lamplighter Drama.

Directed by Michael Oakley and produced by creative producer Charlotte Lloyd Webber, the co-production will be performed in the gardens of Castle Howard, near York, from tomorrow until Sunday, as Charlotte returns to the country house where she and fellow theatre designer Bretta Gerecke created the spectacular Twelve Days Of Christmas displays last winter.

“We’ve been looking for a chance to work with April as she has this striking vision of Wuthering Heights,” says Charlotte. “Michael Oakley, who directed April’s adaptation of The Life And Times Of Fanny Hill for Lamplighter Drama, was keen to work together again, and in the interim, I’d been working at Castle Howard, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to do Wuthering Heights there before going on to Wadham College, our regular Oxford venue, from July.”

York Press:

“NON-CONFORMIST”: Alice Welby as Cathy and Tyler Conti as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights at Castle Howard. Pictures: Charlotte Graham

To prepare for presenting this account of Emily Bronte’s tempestuous story of the free-spirited Catherine and the dark, brooding Heathcliff on the wild, windswept Yorkshire moors, Charlotte headed to Castle Howard with April and Michael in March. “We thought, ‘if you’re going to do an open-air theatre show, let the audience see the grounds, that lovely vista of Castle Howard’,” says Charlotte.

“We’ll then be keeping the audience in one place, the Walled Garden, rather than moving around, as Oxford Shakespeare Company like to do immersive pieces where the actors are close to the audience, doing a very dynamic, fast-moving piece of theatre with the actors creating the environment from the setting and very few props.”

April was keen to experience Castle Howard at first hand before revising her script. “She said, ‘if you’d like me to look at the adaptation afresh, I want to adapt it for a Yorkshire setting for a Yorkshire story by having a look around first,” recalls Charlotte. “The reason is, when there’s no ‘fourth wall’ for outdoor theatre, there needs to be more direct contact with the audience to whip the action along.”

Music will play its part too, and so fans of the much-missed folk big band Bellowhead will be delighted to learn that percussionist Pete Flood has composed music for Oakley’s production. “He did a wonderful score for The Life And Times Of Fanny Hill, and we’re now using bespoke pieces by him for Wuthering Heights, working with actors who have very strong musical skills,” says Charlotte.

York Press:

Charlotte Lloyd Webber at Castle Howard last December for The 12 Days Of Christmas decorative exhibition. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Oakley’s cast of nine has come up to North Yorkshire in advance of the opening night to acclimatise to Castle Howard. “It’s important to come up three or four days before we open for the actors to work out how the performance will work in that space, doing the dress rehearsal in the grounds,” says Charlotte.

On the eve of Wuthering Heights casting its spell once more, she sums up its abiding impact. “Its enduring theme amounts to something that’s still non-conformist in the modern world, transcending time and place as a love story by a feminist writer writing in a Victorian environment but continuing to resonate today,” says Charlotte.

“It goes beyond the boundaries of class in its absolute desire for freedom, and the legacy of what Cathy decides – and she is like so many others in this respect– resonates with each next generation.”

Oxford Shakespeare Company and Lamplighter Drama in Wuthering Heights, Castle Howard grounds, tomorrow to Sunday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm matinees, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Box office:

Charles Hutchinson