Unjust, unjust, unjust…why am I always accused?’ Acerbic words that spit from Jane Eyre’s (Nadia Clifford) tongue like needles, bursting the clichés of Charlotte Brontë’s 19th Century novel.
Sally Cookson’s spirited reimagining of the original Jane Eyre text is an ignited passion of defiance and heartache. Bold and exciting, Cookson’s direction lifts the drama off the page and injects it with an electrifying bolt of energy. It feels so far removed from the tedious text studied in stuffy English classes and posses moments of a real enthralling bite.
Charting Jane’s journey from the depths of poverty and abuse in her childhood to the complex intricacies of her self defiant adult life this powerful script discusses class, religion and feminism in hearty dosses. Clifford’s portrayal of Jane’s independent will is a pulse so vivid that the hunger for change and resistance is infectious.
The fiery relationship between Eyre and Rochester (Tim Delap) is deeply played out by Delap who encompasses the moody and emotionally vague character well. This is a very strong company that work brilliantly, particularly Paul Mundell who has the audience in the palm whilst multi rolling an arsenal of characters throughout.
Movement direction from Dan Canham explores the possibilities of growing up and breaking free by using moments of fluid movements that are enchanting and often novel. Coach journeys are comically portrayed by the ensemble galloping on the spot, Jane’s fellow schoolmates scurry like worker ants across the stage. These elements of fun break up the heavy script and really show off the power of the ensemble.
Melaine Marshall’s voice is hauntingly beautiful as Bertha Mason, rich and resonant forming a poignant shadow over sprightly Miss Austen. Matched with Marshall’s vocal power is Benji Bowers compositions, masterfully performed by musicians Matthew Churcher, Alex Heane and David Ridley. Sound and music play an obvious role with Dominic Bilkey’s sound design capturing both the light and dark of this piece.
Coming in at a lengthy 3 hours there are moments that lag, a pacier redraft would certainly up the ante. However, Cookson’s retelling of a classic novel analyses in greater detail the quotidian expectancies of working class females, asking the question of whether prospects for women now are still very much confined to the humdrum past. 4/5
Review written by Niall Hunt.
Jane Eyre is currently showing until Saturday 21st October 2017 at the National Theatre. For more information on the production, visit here…