Tag Archives: Charlotte Bronte

A Breath of Fresh Eyre


The REP, Birmingham, Monday 4th September, 2017


The REP’s new season gets off to a flying start with this highly-acclaimed production from the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic.  Adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel by the original cast, this is a faithful and spirited retelling with a heightened sense of theatricality – without breaking the fourth wall.

On a sparse set of steps, ladders and walkways, the story plays out with director Sally Cookson conjuring up locations, weather, time of day and setting, mainly through her actors, and enhancing effects through judicious use of sound and lighting effects.  What we get is a wealth of invention and creativity that allows the power of the tale to come through.

The eponymous Jane (an indefatigable Nadia Clifford, who doesn’t seem to leave the stage) is orphaned, abused and neglected as a child but never loses her sense of right and wrong or her tendency to speak out.  Her employment as governess to the ward of Mr Rochester at last exposes her to love and life – and the pains that they can bring.  Clifford is a formidable presence, although tiny, she gives voice to Jane’s outbursts; we have no choice but to be on her side through all her tribulations.  Tim Delap is an eccentric Rochester, grumpy and mercurial, yet somehow dashing and irresistible.  The other cast members come and go as supporting characters: Lynda Rooke’s cruel Aunt Reed contrasts with her kindly Mrs Fairfax;  Evelyn Miller provides Jane with rare warmth and friendship as Bessie and then swanks around as the worldly Blanche Ingram.  Special mention must go to Melanie Marshall’s haunting vocals as the unfortunate Bertha Mason, but it is Paul Mundell who almost steals the show as Rochester’s dog, Pilot!

Theatricality is maximised for greatest effect: Jane’s travels are energetically depicted – even the act of opening a window is stylishly presented.  The melodramatic elements of Charlotte Bronte’s narrative are all there, with contemporary music highlighting the modernity of the story.  The inclusion of standards like Mad About The Boy is both clever and apt, but no less effective is Benji Bower’s original score.

A real feat of theatre that breathes new life into an old story, the perfect marriage of form and content, Jane Eyre charms, amuses and touches in all the right places.  Even if the three-hour running time (extended by a delayed second act on this occasion!) numbs the bum a little bit, your head and your heart will think the time is flying by.


Theatregoer, I married him. Tim Delap as Rochester and Nadia Clifford as Jane. (Photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg)


Fresh Eyre


Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Friday 10th June, 2016


Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel has been adapted by Northern Ballet for their own purposes and, intrigued to find out how you translate something that is entirely words into an art form that has no words at all, I settled into my seat.

Choreographer and director Cathy Marston blends classical moves with contemporary dance, creating some effective and succinct storytelling – although I will state that if you’re unfamiliar with the plot you might find some scenes baffling.  The synopsis in the programme will keep you up-to-speed, so don’t let lack of balletic knowledge (Guilty!) or ignorance of the book (Not guilty, but it’s been a while) put you off this excellent show.

All the highlights of the eponymous heroine’s story are here: her tormented schooldays, the death of her best friend, becoming a governess, meeting Mr Rochester and falling for him… The action moves on at quite a lick.

Antoinette Brooks-Daw is Young Jane, enduring ill treatment and grief – and expressing them beautifully.  Hannah Bateman takes over the role – and is no less graceful and expressive.  It is her scenes with Rochester (the strikingly handsome Javier Torres) that are the highlights and the beating heart of this production.  Torres is an electrifying presence.  Costume designer Patrick Kinmonth dresses him in a tall top hat and a full-length greatcoat.  Torres stalks around, whipping the stage with his riding crop.  He uses his leg to direct his servants and to keep Jane in her place.  It is an expression of power, emphasising his sleekness, at times equine, at others phallic.  Together, Rochester and Eyre are breath-taking.  He does a thing where his foot knocks against hers.  It’s a repeated gesture that crops up a couple of times.  Later (SPOILER ALERT!) when he is blind, Jane uses the foot-knock on him so he knows it is her.  It’s a touching and dramatically satisfying moment.

Victoria Sibson claws her way around as the deranged Bertha from the attic, and there is some amusing character-dancing from Pippa Moore as literal busybody Mrs Fairfax.

Doing a lot of the work is the music – compiled and composed by Philip Feeney – plenty of sinuous woodwinds, agitated strings and yearning horns.  Conducted by John Pryce Jones, the orchestra, provides the aural accompaniment to what is otherwise a purely visual show.  It is gorgeous stuff, complementing the action and augmenting the emotion.

Patrick Kinmouth’s set has a backdrop of a bleak landscape, crisscrossed by paths like scars.  Painted cloths are used as flats, giving loose impressions of place: buildings, countryside…  The monochrome of the set is foiled by instances of colour, in the costumes and the lighting (courtesy of Alastair West).

A treat to see and to hear, the production builds to a final scene that is moving and sweepingly romantic.  A show that gives us accessible, affecting ballet and a story well told; a triumph for Northern Ballet.


A well-deserved sit down. The magnificent Javier Torres as Mr Rochester (Photo: Emma Kauldhar)