Tag Archives: Tim Delap

A Breath of Fresh Eyre

JANE 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.

tim_delap_rochester_nadia_clifford_jane_eyre_nt_jane_eyre_tour_2017._photo_by_brinkhoffmogenburg_2

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

 

Advertisements

Back to (the) Front

REGENERATION

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 5th November, 2014 

Officers suffering from shell-shock were sent to Craiglockhart Army Hospital in Scotland in order that they might be made well enough to be sent back to the trenches to be killed.  This is the absurdity that underscores Nicholas Wright’s stage adaptation of Pat Barker’s novel.  It’s like taking a pit-stop during a demolition derby.

With the First World War at the forefront of our minds in this centenary year (rightly so) there is a danger that we shall reach saturation point and desensitised to those terrible events.  Things, I find, are beginning to lose impact.  Certainly Catch 22 makes many of the same points as this play (albeit in a WW2 setting) and makes them sharper and more absurd.  Here, rather than a Yossarian, we have the poet Siegfried Sassoon quite understandably speaking out against the barbarity and senseless horrors.  For his pains, he is squirrelled away at Craiglockhart because his sane opinions are regarded as lunatic.  If he recants, he will be declared fit and sent back to the front and almost certain death – only a madman would want that…

Tim Delap hits all the right notes as the handsome and smug Sassoon, contrasting with Stephen Boxer’s quiet authority as army shrink Dr Rivers, who recognises the absurdity of his position of making men fit to be shot, but does it anyway.  With sturdy support from Garmon Rhys as Wilfred Owen and Christopher Brandon as Robert Graves, the story blends figures from real life with fictitious characters, but it’s not drama-documentary; perhaps it might be more hard-hitting if it was.

Jack Monaghan is excellent as Billy Prior who snaps out of his mutism to relive his nightmarish experiences.  It’s all very well done: Alex Eales’s set is suitably institutional and dour and both the lighting design (by Lee Curran) and the sound (George Dennis) enhance the men’s various ‘episodes’ and recollections.  There is a grimly distasteful scene involving electrodes – torture as treatment – that is still making me squirm.

Director Simon Godwin lets a creeping sense of doom have the upper hand but without the emotional or visceral punch of something like Birdsong or Journey’s End. Regeneration is well-made cannon fodder for the unstoppable and ubiquitous WWI nostalgia machine.

TIm Delap (Sassoon) and Garmon Davies (Owen) - (Photo credit: Manuel Harlan)

Tim Delap (Sassoon) and Garmon Rhys (Owen) – (Photo credit: Manuel Harlan)