Touring –reviewed at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
Guest reviewer: Heather Chalkley
Charlotte Bronte’s novel was first published in 1847. It was a controversial work even then and still provides an important commentary today. Writer Nick Lane has managed to bring the essence of the book to life, working with the creative team to weave in music from the era with Bronte’s own compositions in the songs. The result is a piece written in the first person with a clear message of female independence and strength, which is true to the original story.
Kelsey Short (Jane Eyre) portrays a palpable emotional intelligence throughout the piece, drawing the audience in from her first oration. Short delivers a constant pragmatic, solemnity, giving way to fierce, confident outbursts, using her body language to accentuate. You experience the highs and lows with her.
Ben Warwick is a believable mid 19th century man, playing Edward Rochester showing his vulnerabilities, passion and compassion. The romantic era is upon them and the freedom to express feelings in art and literature is being explored. The desperate hope that Rochester can force a happy ending in the duplicitous world he has created is undone by the stronger character of Jane.
The ability of the cast members to effortlessly flow from one character to another is impressive. Added to that they are the musicians and singers as well. The cast, particularly Eleanor Toms as the child Adele Varens, inject much needed humour to provide a necessary contrast to the intense, earnestness. The graceful set-changes by the cast provide a rhythm to the piece. I love the way they sit on the periphery of the set waiting for their next entrance, as it adds to the eeriness of some scenes.
If Charlotte Bronte could see this play, she would not be disappointed. It has remained true to the autobiographical nature of the original novel.