Birmingham, Birmingham Repertory – until 16 September 2017
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s well-known classic has been reincarnated on stage and screen with regularity. So, with my in-depth knowledge gathered from my A-Level English Literature studies still ricocheting in my older than teenage brain, I prepared myself to watch another take on the story.
This incarnation of the tale is without doubt the best I have seen, a pleasure to watch from start to finish. The Director, Sally Cookson has captured the essence of the bleak, ‘unjust’ tale of woe with it’s bitter-sweet ending yet it’s a fast-paced, engaging production with a strong multi-tasking ensemble and musical accompaniment from David Ridley, Alex Heane and Matthew Churcher who are the on-stage resident band and also don schoolgirl outfits when the occasion calls for it!
On the surface, the set is so extraordinarily basic that it’s difficult to imagine how it will lend itself to such an intense and lengthy piece, however the versatility of the construction is astounding. With cast members mucking in to aide with props and fluid costume changes, it’s a work of art in itself. What a team effort.
To give a brief over-view for those who are unfamiliar, Jane Eyre is orphaned as a baby, brought up by an aunt who wishes she hadn’t been born, is treated badly at school where she loses her best friend to illness and finally breaks free of her hindrances, although not without numerous set-backs. Love and loss are at the heart of the story, with strong themes and symbolism peppered throughout.
Jane is played by Nadia Clifford and she not only takes on the character, she becomes her. From young unfortunate to grown woman wracked with naked jealousy, every emotion is put across and I felt it all keenly. What an extraordinary actress, I can’t imagine anyone else playing Jane, now – it’s Nadia’s part. Hannah Bristow gave an equally outstanding performance, playing multiple roles and each one had a unique ‘stamp’ which allowed the audience to almost believe that they were watching a different actress to the one who had just played Helen Burns, Adele and Diana Rivers. Paul Mundell also deserves credit for the sheer number of roles he performed and especially deserves a mention for acting as Pilot, Mr Rochester’s dog! Evelyn Miller also appeared as many characters, no mean feat. I was particularly struck by Lynda Rooke’s ability to switch between the cold bitterness of Mrs Reed and the gentle, kindness of Mrs Fairfax – a joy to watch. Tim Delap is the Mr Rochester from my mind when I first read the book. Cocky, bolshie and intimidating with a good heart, regardless. Melanie Marshall gave a stunning performance as Bertha Mason, her haunting vocals added another dimension and should be recorded as a soundtrack to the show!
If you are acquainted with the story, this is a glorious version to watch, if you are not familiar with it – this would make the perfect introduction. In short, go and see it, for it does Bronte proud.