Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
SDC at Southport Little Theatre
THIS is show that has everything. A superb, stately home set, a delightful children’s choir, colourful authentic costumes and, of course, a strong storyline that still resonates with audiences 172 years after it was written.
Over the years, there have been many variations on theme for productions of Jane Eyre. It has been a musical, a Gothic Horror and a ballet; a play with only a cast of three and, at the National Theatre, staged amongst a conglomeration of ladders and climbing frames masquerading as the set.
Happily, director Margaret Mann favoured the traditional option, treating the novel as a Victorian love story and, from the moment the curtains opened to reveal the interior of a Victorian mansion with rows of children singing, we were immediately transported to another age and the ambience for the evening was set.
Willis Hall’s adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s novel begins in Jane’s early home in Gateshead, with the cruel Reed family; onto her days at Lowood School under the sadistic evangelist, Mr. Brocklehurst (David Davies), and eventually to Thornfield Hall where she works as a governess to the child of the master, Edward Rochester, (an impressive performance by Brendan Gillow).
Emily Bloom played the young Jane Eyre with great confidence before being replaced for her later years by Kerry Baratinsky who gives her a forthright and intelligent demeanour which soon attracts the attention of Rochester.
But Jane does not realise what secrets are hidden in Thornton Hall.
Marilyn Fletcher-Hill played Bassie, who protects Jane at Gateshead when bullied by John Reed (Guy Tatler), whilst Emma Wells-Hand was Miss Temple, her friend at Lowood.
At Thornfield Hall, Helen Bennett played the housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax, and Jacquie Wade was Grace Poole.
Other roles included Leslie Cheeseman as Briggs the solicitor, PJ Green as missionary Rev. St. John Rivers and Pat Simpkin as Lady Ingram.
Bertha Mason was heard but seen only fleetingly.
The tension built up relentlessly as events unfolded over no less than nineteen dramatic scenes before the emotional ending when Rochester and Jane meet again.
With a cast of twenty two adults and seven children, ‘Jane Eyre’ is a big production and the music, the set, the costumes, the direction and the acting were all a great credit to everyone involved.
This happened to be the 738th show I have reviewed in the last ten years and to only seven of those shows have I awarded 10 out of 10 stars.
Jane Eyre’ is the eighth. Don’t miss it!
Star Rating 10 out of 10. A tour de force.