2017 marks the 170th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Eyre – one of the best loved novels of all time – so it’s an appropriate occasion to be touring the classic tale in an exciting new stage production.
Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece has been transformed into an energetic and imaginative new adaptation by director Sally Cookson. Originally presented in two parts at Bristol Old Vic, it was re-imagined as a single performance and enjoyed a critically-acclaimed season at the National Theatre. Now on a UK tour, it arrives at Norwich Theatre Royal from July 17-22.
The story of the trailblazing Jane is as inspiring as ever. From her beginnings as a destitute orphan, Charlotte Brontë’s spirited heroine faces life’s obstacles head-on, surviving poverty, injustice and the discovery of bitter betrayal before taking the ultimate decision to follow her heart.
Sally Cookson is an Associate Artist of Bristol Old Vic, where her productions include Treasure Island and Peter Pan; and elsewhere, Boing! (Sadler’s Wells), Cinderella (St James Theatre), an adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather (West End and UK tour), and Romeo and Juliet (Rose Theatre, Kingston).
She admitted adapting the novel for the stage had been a challenging prospect, “especially when that novel is cited as many people’s favourite of all time”. She didn’t read the book herself until she was in her early twenties and remembered being very “struck by how modern Jane seemed – her spirit and strong will, her peculiar and brilliant mind striving for personal freedom to be who she is, lashing out against any constraint that prevents her from being herself.”
Nadia Clifford plays Jane. She previously appeared at the National Theatre in Alistair McDowell’s sell-out production of Pomona. Tim Delap is making his NT debut as Rochester.
Tim described Jane as “this incredibly fiery, feisty powerful woman”. “It’s an incredibly exciting novel. It’s thrilling to read and it’s a really energetic book – and I think this show reflects the energy of the book and it will hopefully bring audiences and readers back to it and change the opinion of the book for those of us that thought maybe it was slightly twee or romantic.
“The love story of Rochester and Jane is not your average love story. There is a real meeting of minds. The way she meets and confronts him, she stands up to him and that changes him, it’s a really fascinating relationship. The novel is so modern in many ways – it’s full of girl power!”
He and Nadia are joined by Hannah Bristow (Helen Burns/Adele/St John/Grace Poole/Abbot), Matthew Churcher (Musician), Alex Heane (Musician), Melanie Marshall (Bertha Mason), Belfast born and bred Paul Mundell (Mr Brocklehurst/Pilot/Mason), Cardiff born David Ridley (musician), Evelyn Miller (Bessie/Blanche Ingram/Diana) and Lynda Rook (Mrs Reed/Mrs Fairfax). The cast is completed by Ben Cutler, Jenny Johns, Dami Olukoya, Francesca Tomlinson and Phoebe Vigor.
The striking set designs by Michael Vale give the production an atmospheric, stripped back look with wooden platforms on different levels transforming the stage from Lowood School to Thornfield Hall. The actors taken on several different roles and there is humour and live music (from an on-stage band) to give additional light and shade to this highly innovative and memorable staging.
Judy Foster, communications officer, said: “This is a wonderfully bold and fresh telling of Jane Eyre with much to delight in and savour, from its dramatic staging, to skilful, lively performances and soulful music. It truly deserved the praise heaped upon it at the National and we are thrilled to be able to present it to our Theatre Royal audiences. This memorable adaptation really shows how relevant the story of Jane Eyre still is today and it shouldn’t be missed!”
Jane Eyre is here from 17 – 22 July, and tickets are available now.