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Jane Eyre Review at Richmond Theatre
Jane Eyre: a Sign of Our Times
So often in these "shout it out" modern times, strong feminine heroes are becoming more commonplace in the arts. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre may be 170 years old, but its central character has the heart and soul of a fighter, a woman who cannot be defeated by circumstances or the rules of the day.
So the story is one of a triumph against the odds, an orphan girl, expected to tow the line and then sent to a boarding school, almost set up as a correctional institute of fear, by a brutal aunt who does not have any love in her soul. Jane eventually becomes a teacher at the school, very suddenly and jarringly for this observer, and then moves on to a governess role in the rather more stately surroundings of one Mr Rochester, a man with troubling secrets and a battle worn demeanour..
Music and Staging of Jane Eyre Very Effective
Director Sally Cookson works the cast, in the physical sense, to the bone, with Paul Mundell playing multiple characters, even to the point of Rochester's dog which he actually manages with some elan. The constant climbing of a set of ladders is also instructive of a change of scene or room, and rather exhausting for those involved, but it gives the production a constant sense of movement, even when things do become a little laboured. This is a three hour show with a very small interlude.
Nadia Clifford plays the central role exceptionally well, moving from a kind of Coronation Street larrikin to a mature woman with a sense of steel. Tim Delap's Rochester is as commanding but vulnerable as the role demands, and he captures the torn past of the man which offsets his booming vocal. There are some nice comic touches which are injected to ensure that we get a break from the huge subject matter.
Benji Bower's musical backdrop is a very effective way of elevating the action and has an almost filmic soundtrack. perfectly. Melanie Marshall, who plays the insane Rochester's ex-wife has a lilting voice and she wanders the stage like a ghost with an angelic haunting quality. There are even interpretations of songs such as 'Mad About The Boy' and 'Crazy' which are woven in to her tragic presence..
An Epic That Doesn't Quite Touch the Wuthering Heights
Jane Eyre can be admired but it's difficult to love something that is setting itself up for an epic and doesn't quite deliver. There are too many passages that are tumbleweed, especially the flirtation with the missionary life, an essential part of the story, but not one that is welded together particularly well.
The ending where Jane discovers a crestfallen Rochester, blind after saving his staff from a fire set off by his ex-wife, is pitched just right. It is a shame there were not more such moments.