Jane Eyre (2017 Tour) – Theatre Review

It’s Jane Eyre, but not as we might know it. Sally Cookson’s powerful adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel is currently on tour around the UK, and deservedly so. Featuring a talented ensemble cast, engaging movement sequences, effective use of simple props, and a rather enthusiastic man-dog (one to be seen rather than explained), here is a fiery and electrifying production that would have made Charlotte proud.

Nadia Clifford makes for a wonderfully passionate Jane, and her delivery of Brontë’s iconic lines are delivered with such raw emotion they electrify the stage. She also makes a good transition from the young, ‘wild’ Jane, to the intellectually fearless adult. Her chemistry with Tim Delap as Mr. Rochester is also breath-taking. Each embrace between the two is heart-breaking in one way or another, not least when Jane decides she must leave him and Fairfax Hall forever. This scene is so carefully played out between Clifford and Delap, and is one of the most beautiful stand out moments. Though, it is difficult to choose favourite moments when the almost three hour piece is filled to the brim with them. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotion that never once feels long or overplayed.

However, this is not just a love story, but a true ensemble piece. The beautifully diverse cast slip in and out of roles, filling in the successive people of influence in Jane’s life, which here is presented truly as the novel intended, as an autobiography. We follow the events of Jane’s life from infancy to motherhood, watching as events, people, places and her own true spirit define her. It is also fascinating to watch when various cast members become Jane simultaenously, facets of her personality, her thoughts and emotions clear within each. Each cast member works tirelessly and the feeling of assuredness and security with each other make the piece an easy watch. In particular Evelyn Miller and Hannah Bristow show a tremendous amount of range with their many and varied characters.

The staging, a myriad of ladders, platforms, ramps and steps, is used to great effect. The cast become bundles of energy as the jump, run and clamber all over the set. But don’t let this simple aesthetic fool you. There are further details that really make the piece zing and round out each setting; old paintings to represent Jane’s first home at Gateshead, ghostly white dresses to indicate her time at Lowood school, and large, simple framed black windows for the grand architecture of Fairfax Hall. Michael Vale gives us pure elegance in his design.

The music from composer Benji Bower also adds something truly gorgeous, as we scoot about from the thundering drum line of a tram journey, to classic winsome folk tunes, to modern classics that with some clever rearrangement, sit beautifully alongside each other. The music consistently reflects Jane’s yearning and longing, and is delivered beautifully, helped immeasurably by the beautiful tones of Melanie Marshall who also plays the tragic Bertha Mason, whose strange and ethereal omnipresence adds a genuinely chilling effect to the story. There almost definitely should be a soundtrack, the pieces are so catchy you are still humming refrains the next day.

This is simply a beautifully constructed piece of theatre – exciting, intelligent, brisk and absorbing, much like Jane herself. Sally Cookson has done it again. What an exceptionally talented director, with a flair for truly honest theatre. This is exactly the sort of thing that deserves to sell out the cavern of Milton Keynes theatre. Catch it whilst you can.

Jane Eyre
Milton Keynes Theatre
10th July 2017 – 15th July 2017

Then continuing on tour. Details at -

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/jane-eyre-on-tour

© Carly Halse - Reviewed on Monday 10th July, 2017.

Author's review: 
5