Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015 10:17 am by Cristina in , , , , , ,    No comments
Copyright: Marilyn Kingwill
The first reviews of Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre at the National Theatre are now being published. The Stage gives it 5 stars out of 5.
Even in this (relatively) condensed version, room is given to the parts of the novel usually skimmed over: to Jane’s childhood in particular, and the events that make and shape her – the terror of the red room, the cruelties of Lowood, the death of poor Helen Burns.
The staging is full of inventive touches. Michael Vale’s spare, curtained set is superbly versatile, with a series of platforms and ladders suggesting Thornfield and Aideen Malone’s lighting adding texture and colour. Benji Bower’s atmospheric music is also central to the feel of piece.
Though she doesn’t entirely avoid the difficulties inherent in playing Jane as a child, Madeleine Worrall is captivating, capturing Jane’s self-knowledge and freedom of mind, her strength and spirit; Felix Hayes is everything you want in a Rochester: brusque, difficult, prickly, but also massively charismatic and in possession of a rich, rolling voice. But as good as they both are, this is very much an ensemble piece,the company working tightly together to create the world of the play.
The production wears its length lightly and while it isn’t afraid to tease, to take risks - something which is particularly true of its use of song – it’s also faithful to the spirit of the book, its boldness and romance, its feminism, its enduring power. (Natasha Tripney)
It is also one of The Stage's theatre picks.
The Daily Mail also gives it 5 stars out of 5.
Director Sally Cookson and her cast of ten did not start with a script. They themselves ‘devised’ the story’s telling. An essay in the programme begins to explain this, yet it sounds pretty daunting: right up to the last few rehearsals, they were dropping scenes, inserting new touches, experimenting and multi-role playing.
I know, I know, it sounds precious and irritating. So may the set: pale planks and a central, very basic platform with a few different levels, ladders and iron bars. Right in the middle is a small band, which plays jazzy, folky songs and provides backing music, while the actors convey things such as the clattering journey of a horse-drawn coach.
By now you are rolling your eyes, thinking I have gone soft in the head. Bear with me, as they say in call centres. Oh, did I mention that one man, amid his other roles, plays Mr Rochester’s dog, Pilot? Did I mention that the show starts with a grown woman wailing like a baby? [...]
Madeleine Worrall’s Jane is a short, plucky Northerner, neither too pretty (quite right) nor too bold. Bronte wrote of her sense of entrapment and here she pushes open a window frame which has been placed before her by other actors — and as she does so there is a burst of wind and a fluttering of bird feathers to signify her dream of freedom.
Felix Hayes’s Rochester is not exactly posh but he certainly lives ‘on the crater-crust’ and knows that life might spew fire at him at any moment. He is impulsive, direct beyond the point of rudeness — a volcano himself.
As Jane falls in love, the gifted Melanie Marshall (who plays Rochester’s deranged wife) sings Mad About The Boy. It could jar, but it does not. When Jane returns to Rochester’s Thornfield Hall after a month’s absence, she says: ‘I’ve been with my aunt, sir, who is dead.’
Rochester: ‘A true Jane-ian reply!’ The modern idiom does not sound at all odd because director Cookson has managed to plant us in a completely different zone from that of normal costume drama. And yet this is a show with corsets and smocks and a bath chair.
This is theatre at its most imaginative and the hours skip past. Enchanting. (Quentin Letts)
The Arts Desk is enthusiastic about it too and gives it 4 stars out of 5,
The cast themselves offer us a script that emerges largely from Brontë’s own text (with some conscious diversions), a spoken scaffolding for the real business of the evening which is all physical. This is not Complicite; text still stands alone, but it is amplified by gestures and devices – physical doubling (and trebling), spoken sound-effects, slow-motion movement, infinite cast shifting, animals and even inanimate objects brought to life – that help grease the wheels of this breathless drama.
In losing time the play has become a little less balanced, with the narrative preamble – Jane’s time at Gateshead and later at Lowood Institution – pulling back hard on the narrative reins, keeping us from the meat of the story for well over an hour. The pay-off for a slow start is a galloping second half, whisking perhaps a little too swiftly through the episode involving zealous missionary St John Rivers (a chillingly fervent Laura Elphinstone, who earlier managed to humanise the ghastly prig Helen Burns) before retreating to its happy ending. (...)
While it’s hard to fault the energy and flexibility of the cast, led by Madeleine Worrall’s Jane – staunch, fiery, tracing the character from uncontrolled childhood passion to adult interiority – there are inevitably losses as well as gains with such a reworking. The latter include a potently expanded Bertha Mason (Melanie Marshall, pictured left), given in song what she is denied in speech, Felix Hayes’s dominant Rochester and lovely touches like Craig Edwards’ indefatigable Pilot (Rochester’s dog) and Benji Bower’s luminous score, stitching this fragmented drama together. The former, however, would have to acknowledge a little too much melodrama – verging on the mawkish – in the early episodes (a problem dealt with by the book’s first-person narrator, growing from youthful excess to more mature reflection), and pacing that takes a while to settle.
But as an exhilarating piece of ensemble creation – an affectionate, ardent theatrical tribute to Brontë’s novel – it’s hard to argue with a play that takes all of Jane Eyre’s emotional intelligence, its measured thoughtfulness, and allies it to the unrestrained urgencies of Wuthering Heights. So set your watch to “Victorian” and surrender the emotional long-game of this lovingly-crafted show. (Alexandra Coghlan)
On the other hand, The Times only gives it 2 stars:
This play is not a short night at the theatre but then, Jane Eyre is not exactly a novella either. It’s three and a quarter hours and, as I emerged at the interval, I couldn’t help but wonder what Charlotte Brontë would make of it all, with her wonderful wild northern landscape reduced to what is, in effect, an adventure playground, a series of walkways and platforms, punctuated by ladders going nowhere. (Ann Treneman)
And on the dance front, SW Londoner announces that
Charlotte Brontë’s iconic masterpiece Jane Eyre will be performed by Northern Ballet next year to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the author’s birth.
 Choreographed by acclaimed international dance maker Cathy Marston, the new full-length ballet will host its world première in Doncaster on May 19 2016 before touring to five other venues including Richmond Theatre.  (Helen Le Caplain)
Yorkshire Evening Post and The Bucks Herald echoes the news.
Xposé (Ireland) selects the 'top period dramas of all time' and one of them is
Jane Eyre (BBC 2006)
Starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.
This is my favourite portrayal of Jane Eyre so far. If Jane Eyre was a real person and alive now I imagine her as some sort Lana del Ray figure or as a sassy spoken word performer. She is the ultimate proto feminist. This version sticks very close to Charlotte Bronte’s novel and Ruth Wilson is amazing in it.
Jane Eyre is an orphan who has the most miserable of upbringings as you can get. As soon as she comes of age she escapes the school that has been her home for so long. She gets a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall. Enter the master of the estate, the grumpy Mr Rochester played by the brilliant Toby Stephens.
They strike up the unlikeliest of bonds and then ensues the classic will they won’t they story love story. Yet It’s more than just a romantic story, it’s a journey of a strong young woman who refuses to be anybody but herself. Wilson captures the strength and independence of her character without making it unbelievable for the time. 
Spanish writer Ángeles Caso and her book Todo ese fuego are featured on the radio programme Las mañanas de RNE and Diario de Mallorca.
Writer Colleen Morrissey sounds like a Brontëite in this interview from The Southeast Review.
Is there a certain writer or piece of writing you find yourself turning to over and over again? Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It’s my favorite book of all time, and it’s got everything. I have no idea how a writer can fit the entire universe into a relatively short novel like that, but she did.
Eugene Weekly reviews Patrick deWitt's new novel Undermajordomo Minor which mixes
the buttoned-down austerity of Downton Abbey-style manor house drama with the darkly gothic romance of the Brontë sisters. (William Kennedy)
We are not so sure, but according to The Independent,
Usually, "chick noir" novels are written by women; and the "new" genre, which arguably goes back to Du Maurier and the Brontës, has a flavour of a witch trial about it. (Sophia Martelli)
A columnist from The Daily Californian begins her article as follows:
As a literature student and self-professed bibliophile, I often related to characters in novels. Or at least, aspired to be like them. I yearned for Elizabeth Bennet’s charming yet incisive wit, Jane Eyre’s moral fortitude and Bathsheba Everdene’s fierce sense of independence. As I lived vicariously through fictional lives, I dreamt of inhabiting these qualities, living under their constrained social mores, kissing their Byronic suitors or wearing their tight corsets. (Madeline Zimring)
Pocono Record puts the spotlight on Mary Stout, Broadway actress:
As with many actors, Stout has been typecast "quite a bit." She says she often enjoys being in the role of a housekeeper, particularly as Mrs. Fairfax in "Jane Eyre" that ran for six years in Toronto until 2001. (Wayne Witkowski)
This article highlights what's to be found at Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, which includes a few Brontë treasures (also on Fine Books & Collections). The Telegraph and Argus suggests a walk that passes through Wycoller and its Brontë connection is mentioned. A Brontëan encounter on The Sisters' Room (in Italian). The latest Brontë Society newsletter can be read here.


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