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posted/updated: 13 Jun 2017 - edit review / upload photos
Jane Eyre
Adapted from the novel by Charlotte Brontë. Produced by the National Theatre. Directed by Sally Cookson
society/company: Richmond Theatre (professional) (directory)
performance date: 12 Jun 2017
venue: Richmond Theatre
reviewer/s: Louis Mazzini (Sardines review)


Photo: Brinkhoff Mögenburg

This astonishing re-telling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, first staged at Bristol Old Vic in 2014, provides one of the most exciting evenings I have spent in the theatre in a long time.

Finding fresh ways to re-tell a classic story is an irresistible challenge and Sally Cookson and her incredibly talented and versatile team have quite simply smashed it, delivering a superb production that incorporates opera, mime and strong physical theatre and is set within a simple but genuinely ingenious and constantly changing set designed by the marvellous Michael Vale.

Cookson is also well served by her cast, including three equally strong leads and a four-person chorus that play everything else from horses and sconces to Jane’s inner thoughts, each executed flawlessly.

Nadia Clifford is outstanding as Jane, taking Bronte’s proto-feminist heroine from childhood through the Red Room to Thornfield Hall, love and beyond; and Tim Delap gives a more complex and nuanced Rochester than is usual in portrayals of the male leads in the novels of the Brontes and Jane Austen.

The third principal, among other work a member of the wonderful Ronnie Scott’s Rejects band, is Melanie Marshall whose Bertha Mason is a brooding presence as the story builds to its incendiary climax while, in her extraordinarily beautiful voice, she sings intermittent sidelights on Jane’s unfolding story, supported by a trio of onstage musicians that add extra magic throughout the production. The chorus is seamless and excellent but two members shine just a little brighter: Paul Mundell as, among others, Rochester’s dog, Pilot, capturing every nuance and element of dog down to the facial expressions and constant tail wagging; and the versatile Evelyn Miller who becomes - almost literally - a man in one of her three roles, every mannerism, every movement perfectly convincing.

Finally, this is a show where the sound and lighting matter almost as much as the acting, pulling the audience into the action, especially in a ferocious storm scene and in the final conflagration and its aftermath.

On tour with dates currently confirmed to the end of September, Sally Cookson’s Jane Eyre is not to be missed.

Highly recommended.

Photo: Brinkhoff Mögenburg

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