National Theatre co-production with Bristol Old Vic
based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë
devised by the original company.
9 April at 7pm to 16 April 2020
Running Time: 2 hours 55 minutes with a very short interval. Review Mark Courtice 9th April 2020
This, the second of the season of the National Theatre At Home shows, is a wonderful, creative treat for the lockdown.
In 2015 on the National’s huge Lyttleton Theatre stage this seemed a bit lost, but this sensitively filmed live performance really works. Now it is focused and powerful. Although early on at co-producers the Bristol Old Vic this adaptation ran over two nights, the show here shows few signs of surgery.
Important scenes are given time to breathe, partly because the storytelling is fleet, using movement, sound and the full armoury of theatrical effects. Thus the important moment when Jane leaves childhood is done with an onstage costume change. Music is crucial, so the band sits centre stage, and Benji Bowers’s score is beautifully sung and played; there’s a heart stopping moment when Melanie Marshall sings “Crazy” – it genuinely does work, trust me.
Madeleine Worrall as Jane and Felix Hayes as Rochester are at the centre of an excellent ensemble. Both are given a chance to be expansive and nuanced. She is principled, tough minded (her moments of doubt are shown by a cluster of voices surrounding her), and quicksilver. He is beset from the off, despite his brusque bullying tone, so you can see why she cares so much for him.
The cast work with skill, precision, and grace to create the worlds that Jane inhabits. They climb stairs, flicker and glide over surfaces on Michael Vale’s skeletal set (good for gothic mystery), creating a fluid world, often seeming to be part of the fabric of places, from schools to the three formative houses Jane lives in. Helped by Aideen Malone’s consistently apt lighting you really can feel the difference between the dark and cold Lowood and the warmer chaotic (and nonetheless faintly sinister) Thornfield.
Musician Benji Bower
Musician Will Bower
Mr Brocklehurst / Pilot / Mason Craig Edwards
Helen Burns / Adele / St John / Grace Poole / Abbot Laura Elphinstone
Rochester Felix Hayes
Musician Phil King
Bertha Mason Melanie Marshall
Bessie / Blanche Ingram / Diana Rivers Simone Saunders
Mrs Reed / Mrs Fairfax Maggie Tagney
Jane Eyre Madeleine Worrall
Other parts played by members of the company
Director Sally Cookson
Set Designer Michael Vale
Costume Designer Katie Sykes
Lighting Designer Aideen Malone
Music/ Music Director Benji Bower
Sound Designers Mike Beer & Dominic Bilkey
Movement Director Dan Canham
Fight Director Renny Krupinski
Dramaturg Mike Akers
Company Voice Work Richard Ryder
Staff Director Ellen Havard