Thursday, June 02, 2016

Today we have several extremely good reviews of Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre. The Telegraph gives it 4 stars out of 5.
The visual world of the novel is evoked well through a pleasingly sparse set free of domestic clutter. Instead, painted cloths and screens represent the moorlands with modernist simplicity. While the role of Reverend St John (an eager Jeremy Curnier) feels surplus, British-born Marston, a former associate choreographer for the Royal Ballet, makes imaginative use of the rest of the Company’s male ensemble by drawing them as Jane’s inner demons, a group of six who swirl around her, tripping her up and blocking her path.
The beauty further comes from the emotive and varied tones of Marston’s choreography, all carefully constructed to give an undeniable sense of style. Jane’s passion bursts out of her with surprising panache, while her inner turmoil – expressed through twisted fists and a bowed head – battles for control of her body.
More powerful, however, are the intimate duets for Jane and Rochester. Javier Tomes’s darkly handsome Rochester is powerful and poised as he threatens Janes’s sense of self, but in the final act when he is blinded by fire and engulfed by mist from the moors, his vulnerability is exposed as he falls into his wife’s arms.
Marston has succeeded in crafting a beautiful and expressive new ballet that soars in the triumph of effecting change from the inside out. (Rachel Ward)
The Spectator recommends it too:
It wasn’t really a surprise that Cathy Marston had a triumph with the Brontë —Royal Ballet-raised but Europe-bred, the choreographer has gradually developed a knack for character empathy and, crucially, a gift for externalising inner feelings in a vividly legible way. So although Jane Eyre is such a literary story, with every emotional step of the heroine so painstakingly explained by its author, Marston has danced lightly through the details, compressing it into a chamber ballet, albeit full-length.
It’s given a sketchy, suggestive design by Patrick Kinmonth, with translucent grey cloths marked with charcoal lines, like tissue drawings of woods or rooms, though the costumes are wishy-washy (I don’t believe that Blanche Ingram is the type of woman who would wear tired raspberry). Lit by Alastair West, who creates some excellent fiery effects, the story emerges with a visually dynamic underpinning.
There is also an apt and emotive score by Philip Feeney for Northern Ballet’s lively small orchestra, which incorporates heartwrenching movements from the chamber music and songs of Schubert and Mendelssohn (Felix and Fanny), all of which anchor the sentimental temperature in Brontë’s period. This crucial piece of good artistic judgment by Marston means that we register Jane’s choices and feelings within that era’s context, and even though her choreography is written in the whole-body moves of European modern ballet (much more flex in necks and upper torsos than classical ballet), the eloquence is directed towards hidden or suppressed or evasive feelings too.
And this makes the difference between a choreographer spelling out a story and one who aims to speak through character, so that the plot is the result of their individual natures in action and reaction. Jane’s character is subtly gradated, her full-blown passions hedged in by practised watchfulness and naivety in half-gestures, and in Dreda Blow’s quietly involving performance. (Ismene Brown)
Get West London gives it  5 stars out of 5:
Every dancer in the production shone, with personalised movement styles and impressive skill; Dreda Blow (Jane Eyre) stood out as mastering both elegant and dramatic styles, as well as creating incredible on-stage chemistry with Javier Torres (Mr Rochester). Torres captured the enigmatic hero well, showing true vulnerability in the production's final scene.
Bringing an exciting dimension to the dance was Victoria Sibson as a fiery Bertha Mason; with bare feet and wild, loose hair, Sibson was perfectly suited to the role and added a real passion to the latter half of the production. [...]
The choreography and set design (set and costume design by Patrick Kinmonth; lighting design by Alastair West) worked harmoniously together to create the striking visual world of Brontë's novel where words and description could not.
From the start, regimented and synchronised choreography with a fairly bare set to symbolise the school contrasts wonderfully with the more passionate scenes to highlight Jane's inner turmoil.
In these more emotive scenes, the ballet itself seems wilder, and sheer cloths and curtains are used - as well as lighting - to create flame and shadows, as well as the famous moor landscape. Devices such as real smoke and a multi-tiered set complement the choreography well and give depth to the dancing itself.
A personal highlight was the scene in which Jane dreams of Mr Rochester and wakes to find a burning bedroom. Shadows of dancers surrounding her tense and twisted movements really added a darkness to the scene and gave a modern edge to Jane's otherwise flowing and graceful choreography.
The beautiful performance is definitely worth a watch for any Brontë fan, even one who has never been to the ballet before, as the themes of inner turmoil, vulnerability and romance translate well to a form without language... Though it's best to brush up on the plot beforehand, as some of the nuance may be lost if you're not familiar with the storyline.
The adaptation was wonderfully close to the text, and seeing a novel I've loved for so long be brought to life with such incredible skill was a real experience.
Northern Ballet, along with a fantastic creative team, brings an expressive and romantic feel to the contemporary adaptation that should not be missed. (Emily Chudy)
Essential Surrey gives it 4 stars out of 5:
Dreda Blow and Javier Torres have fantastic chemistry as Jane and Rochester. They Bring the stage to life with their passionate pas de deux, which at times comes close to contemporary dance.
The main problem with Jane Eyre for modern audiences is of course, Rochester, whose idea of dealing with his wife’s mental health issues is to lock her in the attic and attempt a bigamous marriage to Jane. Really, what was he thinking about? But don’t worry, he gets what’s coming to him. Men were generally a bit of a problem for Jane in this production, when she is tormented by her ‘D-mens’ in some delirious fantasy scenes.
There is also much wonderful character dancing to enjoy: Pippa Moore as housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax, who reveals so much with her prissy steps and Rachael Gillespie as Adele, the young French girl who literally bounces with excitement, especially at the dinner party in Act 2 where Jane fears that Rochester is in love with the elegant Blanche Ingram, beautifully danced by Abigail Prudames. Victoria Sibson is also thrilling as the flame haired Bertha Mason, Rochester’s first wife, as she dances like a fury on the burning rooftops.
If you had to pick faults, with all the dowdy Victorian clothes, the production was a bit beige coloured, particularly in the first half - as if to remind you that it’s ‘grim up north’.  Also, the stage at Richmond Theatre hardly seems big enough for a ballet company of this size. At times, it feels like the cast are squeezed into tight tableaux while the dancers barely have room to stretch their legs.
Carping aside, I loved this production and would happily watch it again. I’m also thinking of rereading my tattered copy of the book! (Richard Davies)
And also 4 stars out of 5 from West End Wilma.
Choreographer Cathy Marston has captured both the dark tragedy of the story and Jane’s fighting spirit. Her choice to make it completely Jane’s story does mean that other characters are left slightly in the background, but then some of the best stage and screen adaptations are guilty of the same.
Of the lesser characters, Rachael Gillespie (Adele) adds charm and mischief to Marston’s jovial choreography for her character, Victoria Sibson is beautifully insane as Bertha and there’s an almost wry humour to Pippa Moore’s Mrs Fairfax. While Helen (Kiara Flavin) did perhaps lack stage time, her pas de deux with young Jane (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) was poignant and beautiful.
Dreda Blow in the title role of Jane is exquisite. Her poise is perfectly elegant and her facial expressions epitomise the Jane Eyre we all know and love. Mr Rochester is a tricky character to portray without words and although Javier Torres is an impeccable dancer, he falls slightly short with some of his expressions. Yet the romantic, almost contemporary dance between him and Jane when they declare their love is stunning – the sentiments clear and the dancing beautiful.
Patrick Kinmonth’s set and costumes help to capture the rugged nature of the landscape and Mr Rochester’s personality, while Philip Feeney’s music brings out the tragedy and romance of the story. His score incorporates music by 19th century German pianist Fanny Mendelssohn, most notably Notturno in G minor, which lends an authentic musicality to the era of the novel.
To see Charlotte Brontë’s beloved story on stage as such a beautiful ballet was an absolute joy. (Michaela Clement-Hayes)
Playhouse Pickings gives it 3.5 stars out of 5. Another review can be read on Lou Reviews.

The Independent reviews the film Me Before You and describes the main character as
a quadriplegic – a Heathcliff in a wheelchair. (Geoffery Macnab)
Eagle News Online looks at recent releases in fiction and is reminded of Jane Eyre by one of them.
Dawn at Emberwilde
By Sarah E. Ladd
The plot of this new novel sounds a bit like Jane Eyre. Isabel Creston teaches at the school where she was once a student until she learns of unknown relatives at Emberwilde, “a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with mysterious rumors and ominous folklore.” Her uncle’s invitation to live at Emberwilde brings her into contact with two men who will vie for her affections. But not everything is as it may seem, of course. “Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security.” (Brian Abbott)
The Millions finds echoes of the Brontës in general and Anne Brontë in particular on TV series Happy Valley.
But the show also echoes the works of the county’s native daughters, the Brontës. Haworth, their hometown, is mentioned more than once. Catherine has a Jane Eyre-like stoicism, and Tommy Lee Royce’s schemes to gain power over his son and those he sees as having harmed him aren’t far from Heathcliff’s machinations. However, it’s the least-known Brontë’s vision that is clearest here. [...]
Her sisters’ respective Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre became sensations, and though The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) sold well and quickly gained notoriety, Anne’s reputation was submerged after her death, especially once Charlotte wrote dismissively of her work. But with her 200th birthday coming up in 2020, she’s now seen as a proto-feminist who looked unflinchingly at life’s worst problems; her work is deceptively powerful.
Anne didn’t leave many private writings, and she’s difficult to know. Her published poems are often religious and nature-inspired, but one can see they’re reinforced with steel. Away from home, caring for difficult children under indifferent employers, she wrote of loneliness and low spirits; most of her poetry is a summons to courage, with God as the adrenaline shot. Some of her poems, though, pulse with huge personal feeling that has nowhere to go; “Self-Communion” (1847-8), for instance, talks of others “whose love may freely gush and flow,” and “whose dreams of bliss were not in vain.” In the end, the passion is subsumed again. Biographers have speculated about whether Anne loved a young curate, William Weightman, but there isn’t much evidence to go on, and her work keeps her deepest self-communing private.
In Happy Valley, Catherine does the same, submerging her pain beneath a preternaturally calm surface much of the time. For her, there’s little sense of a god or any other consolation for suffering, but there’s the moral imperative, similar to Anne’s, that life must plod on, that this is the way things are. So many people depend on Catherine that she can’t collapse, however close to a breakdown she gets. Her sister Clare (Siobhan Finneran) is a difficult, fragile sibling, depending on Catherine to run much of her life. When Catherine leaves her at a party to pursue the criminal Royce, her absence. (Read more(Alix Hawley)
Ireland's Own looks into 'Charlotte Brontë’s Love Affair With Banagher'. And Curbed New York shares the history of  'Villa Charlotte Bronte, a Romantic Idyll in the Bronx'. Tea, Books & Fun reviews Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley. Book Eater (in Spanish) announces a Brontë- themed month.

On Facebook, photographer Mark Davis shows what's behind the scenes at the Brontë Parsonage and surroundings film set.


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