JANE EYRE: Devised by the company.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 3h 15m: one interval: till 13th February, Nottingham, and touring.
Performance times: 7.00pm, (Matinees 1.30pm Thurs and Sat).
Review: Alan Geary: 10th February 2016.
A remarkable production.
Directed by Sally Cookson, this compelling piece of theatre is oddly like the sort of medium-scale touring productions that seemed to be all over the place a decade or so ago. It’s not written by a single writer; apparently it was devised by the company.
Even the set looks familiar. It’s a simple arrangement of wooden platforms, steps and ladders; and the huge musical element is delivered by musicians on stage, who interact with and blend with the actors. There’s a traditional folk feel about the music.
Melanie Marshall, in a striking red dress, represents Bertha Mason, Rochester’s mad wife from upstairs, as she sings snatches of song including Coward’s Mad About the Boy. It’s a magnificent voice.
The play, which takes us through the main incidents of the Brontë original, begins with a baby cry as Jane is born and, in a justified departure from the novel, ends optimistically with a similar cry, a clichéd but effective symbol of a new beginning.
Madeleine Worrall is perfectly cast as Jane, with her oppressed, squeaky, croaky voice at the start, and her transformation into a principled, assertive woman with real sexuality. Felix Hayes has a terrific voice for the surely, cynical and depressed Mr Rochester. There are more accomplished performances from, notably, Craig Edwards as Mr Brocklehurst with his perverted religiosity, and, amusingly, as Pilot the dog; and Laura Elphinstone, brilliant as the tubercular Helen Burns, and St John, with his evangelical fervour.
From Bristol Old Vic with an input from the National Theatre, this is in many respects a remarkable production. It’s certainly enjoyable.
Mr Brocklehurst/Pilot/Mason: Craig Edwards.
Helen Burns/Adele/St John/Grace Poole/Abbot: Laura Elphinstone.
Rochester: Felix Hayes.
Bertha Mason: Melanie Marshall.
Bessie/Blanche Ingram/Diana Rivers: Simone Saunders.
Mrs Reed/Mrs Fairfax: Maggie Tagney.
Jane Eyre: Madeleine Worrall.
Musicians: Benji Bower, Will Bower, Phil King.
Director: Sally Cookson.
Designer: Michael Vale.
Lighting: Aideen Malone.
Music/Music Director: Benji Bower.
Sound Designers: Mike Beer, Dominic Bilkey.