Jane Walsh, programming manager here at Norwich Theatre Royal, went along to see the UK tour of Jane Eyre ahead of the show’s visit to Norwich (17-22 July). She gave us her reaction:
I’ve always seen Jane Eyre as a spirited and rebellious woman full of Yorkshire grit, imagined and brought to vivid life by a truly strong Yorkshire woman, and as a Jane from Yorkshire myself Charlotte Bronte’s heroine is someone I feel I have known for years and is very close to my heart.
So when I went to see the National Theatre & Bristol Old Vic’s latest production of Jane Eyre in Salford at the start of its UK tour, despite the pedigree of the production and it’s glowing reviews, it was with a certain nervousness about how this legendary novel was going to work on stage and if I was going to see the Jane who is so familiar to me.
But never fear reader, the uncertainty quickly disappeared as for my money this production of Jane Eyre is the closest ever to my imagining and what I have always interpreted as Charlotte Bronte’s intent.
Under Sally Cookson’s direction we see Jane Eyre develop from downtrodden orphaned child, restricted by the circumstances she finds herself in, to turn into a gloriously strong-willed woman with a fierce intellect, living life on her own terms. Nadia Clifford gives a mesmerising portrayal of Jane that is thrilling to watch. On stage throughout, she is firmly at the centre of this legendary tale, taking us from determined child to the free-spirited woman that so captivates Rochester.
Wooden platforms and ladders fill the stage surrounded by draped curtains which, with great lighting design from Aideen Malone, are the setting for everything from Lowood to Thornfield Hall. The cast, most of whom play multiple roles, show boundless energy and agility as they clamber up and down the ladders from scene to scene. On stage musicians accompany this fast-paced production throughout and add to the tension and provide some moments of relief in this highly charged narrative. The coach travel scenes also provides some lighter touches as does the lovely characterisation by Paul Mundell of Rochester’s dog Pilot. Also watch out for the soulful singer Melanie Marshall, wow what a performance.
We have seen a fair number of adaptations of novels on stage in Norwich over the past years, some working better than others, but for me this is very much at the top end of the list.
See Jane Eyre for yourself: it’s here from 17-22 July, and tickets are available now.