Professional touring company, Blackeyed Theatre, presented their adaptation of the novel, Jane Eyre at Bridge House Theatre, Warwick. Adapted for the stage by Nick Lane, directed by Adrian McDougall, and with the help of several others, the company has been touring the play since September.
Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre is a hugely important gothic novel of hope, empowerment and victory over those that conspire against us. Jane begins as a vulnerable orphan, raised by an uncaring aunt and her vile cousins. However, she finds freedom, friendship, love and loss in being sent to a charity school headed by Mr Brocklehurst, where she eventually becomes a teacher. When she takes a new post as a governess for the French speaking daughter of Mr Rochester at Thornfield hall, she finds her voice and unexpected connections. Eventually, Eyre finds herself in the home of St. John Rivers, where she is welcomed like family. Like all happy endings, Eyre finds her place in the world, and becomes the ultimate feminist heroine.
Kelsey Short: Jane Eyre
Ben Warwick: Edward Rochester / Mr Brocklehurst
Camilla Simson: Mrs Fairfax / Bertha Mason / Aunt Reed / Mary Rivers
Eleanor Toms: Blanche Ingram / Georgianna Reed / Helen Burns / Adele Varens / Diana Rivers
Oliver Hamilton: St John Rivers / John Reed / Mr Mason / William
The cast list is a vital element to the review of this show, as with a cast of only five performers and a total of sixteen characters being portrayed, you’d think that this could cause some confusion; particularly with the lack of full costume changes. It was a new hat, a different apron, or some other subtle change that helped to differentiate between characters, however, it was the tremendous acting and characterisation of everyone on stage that shone through; feeding the audience all they needed.
Every cast member also took their turn to play the piano, or one of the other musical instruments synonymous with the era, throughout the show that were laced across the scenes. There were few moments that weren’t adorned with some form of background music, but the cast effortlessly intertwined this with their storytelling and to say it was impressive would be an understatement.
Ben Warwick expertly stepped into both Mr Brocklehurst and Edward Rochester, the latter being the more poignant of the two. The growing friendship between Rochester and Eyre was an intense and fervent portrayal that by the time it had blossomed into a relationship, had captured the audience completely. The highest accolade of the night, however, must go to Kelsey Short who played the protagonist with expert control yet tempered with consuming passion; gliding smoothly from acting within scenes to narrating her tale to the audience throughout.
The authenticity of this tale was completely engulfed and emphasised by its technical aspects; the set was on stage throughout its entirety, and again, the cast did marvellous work throughout. Victoria Spearing made some truly expert staging decisions; whether it be a bench that then became a bed or a stairwell becoming a doorway, every prop and piece of set was used to its full potential.
If you were unfortunate enough to miss this compelling production, you need not be disappointed! It returns to the local area in 2020, Blackeyed Theatre’s Jane Eyre will be showing at Coventry Albany Theatre, January 22 – 23, and Chipping Norton Theatre, February 27 – 29.
Review by Rachel Harris, Pulse Productions