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Jane Eyre


REVIEW: Jane Eyre – National Theatre – Mayflower, Southampton 9 May 2017

The National Theatre has done it again. Vibrant, frantic and completely gripping, director Sally Cookson and this ferociously talented cast have created a contemporary adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, throughout which the pulse of the timeless story beats.

Jane Eyre

With several past cinematic adaptations of Jane Eyre having depicted Jane as somewhat feeble, it’s refreshing to see that this team have truly considered the depth of the character in the novel.

Nadia Clifford is without question the 21st century embodiment of Brontë’s infamous character, a woman streets ahead of her time. Clifford captures the essence of Jane’s strength and intelligence, qualities which were widely considered to be dangerous in a female protagonist, when Brontë published the novel under the pseudonym Currer Bell in 1847.

Jane Eyre

The feminist, non-conforming performance is strengthened by the personification of Jane’s conscious mind by Clifford’s fellow cast members, who physicalise Jane’s internal battles and pose questions of her.

Jane Eyre

The physical nature of the whole production is astonishing, many actors never leaving the stage, and others playing multiple characters throughout the three-hour long piece.

Those who have read the novel know that the early chapters take place in Jane Eyre’s childhood, and it’s a testament to this cast that they switch from adult to convincingly-childlike before our eyes. Special mention goes to Paul Mundell for his portrayal of Rochester’s dog, Pilot, whose endearing interludes provide balance to an otherwise intense piece.

Rochester himself is played by Tim Delap, his dynamic performance encompassing Brontë’s conflicted, eccentric character, who many believe represents Brontë’s teacher, whom she loved unrequitedly during her studies in Brussels.

The staging is made up of a series of wooden platforms and iron ladders. This is enhanced by the innovative use of lighting and several simple props, including window frames which hang from the eaves to represent the scale and grandeur of Thornfield Hall.

Jane Eyre

On-stage costume changes denote the passage of age and time. Jane’s governess uniform is carried away on a coat hanger as she is helped into her white bridal dress – a symbol of her imminent social ascension – only for the simple grey garment to be returned to her upon the exposure of Rochester’s estranged wife.

Jane Eyre

The ever-present, staring figure of Melanie Marshall as Bertha Mason is eerie, assisted by the chilling accompaniment of her voice and the music which is performed on-stage by the ensemble. Composer Benji Bower’s score is an eclectic mix, including moments which are reminiscent of old Hollywood cinema, and others ethereal folk tunes.

Jane Eyre

Originally devised and staged at the Bristol Old Vic, this production of Jane Eyre transferred to the National in 2015, before a short tour. Now, back and on the road in an extensive UK tour, Jane Eyre is at the Mayflower for the rest of the week.

Jane Eyre

The most well-earned standing ovation I’ve seen for a long time, The National Theatre’s Jane Eyre is physically and emotionally strenuous, and it really shouldn’t be missed. FIVE STARS.

Beccy Conway