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But 2017 began with a project close to home and dear to his Northern heart. He was invited to curate an exhibition, recently opened, at The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Branwell Brontë, brother of the famous literary sisters and black sheep of the family.Hastings Online Times reviews The Jane Eyre Project, at the Hastings Arts Forum, in St Leonards-on-Sea.
Simon admits that before tackling the project he knew little about Branwell (whose story of drug addiction, thwarted ambition and alcoholism was recently featured in a Sally Wainwright television drama) and was more familiar with sister Emily’s poetry. But he has attempted to get into the mind of the troubled only son. The starting point of the exhibition, which links 10 Armitage poems with 10 Branwell artefacts, is a letter and poem sent by Branwell to the acclaimed poet William Wordsworth. As one poet to another, how does Simon rate the ill-fated young man’s work? “You can see the poem is full of repetition and cliches,” he says. “But there are some great lines in there as well. His poetry is young and very enthusiastic and ambitious and imitates the Romantics of the era, in particular Byron and Wordsworth.
“He never got a response to the letter, which is a little bit heartbreaking. But Branwell was precocious and very puffed up in his letter, and he irritated Wordsworth by criticising some of the poets of the day, but not by name.”
When writing the Brontë poems, Simon says he couldn’t avoid imagining who and what Branwell would have been today. “One of the objects in the exhibition is his wallet,” he explains, “ and I wanted to think about what it meant to him – it was always empty. In the poem it becomes a contemporary object; there’s a condom in there, his dealer’s phone number, a credit card with cocaine on the end of it.” (Hilarie Stelfox)
Part of a larger St Leonards-wide festival, involving local businesses, community groups and even the train station, The Jane Eyre Project grew out of a collaboration between the gallery and the experimental theatre company ExploreTheArch (Jane Eyre is the inspiration for The House of the Heroine, part of its Hidden Books season). Sally Meakins, curator of The Jane Eyre Project, and also one of the artists in residence, says that the participating artists’ work draws on their interpretations of the story or the feelings that it evokes.York Mix features the local production of National Theatre's Jane Eyre, adapted by Sally Cookson, which opens in York in May.
The Jane Eyre Project is interesting on several levels, not least in the juxtaposition between the physical location of the exhibition in this airy, contemporary and fairly minimalist seafront gallery and that of the dark, sometimes wild, nineteenth-century north-central English backdrop, against which Brontë’s plot unfolds. The work exhibited here is diverse, as one would expect, the 11 artists using a mixture of different mediums to explore and expand on the storyline and its themes. [...]
And, as our responses to art, like anything else, are subjective, some pieces resonate with us more than others. Caroline Sax’s intricately detailed, mixed-media box ‘rooms’, among them the ‘Red Room’ and ‘Liar’, are quite stunningly executed. They merge extracts with highly coloured multi-layered images and carefully placed mirrors to reinterpret scenes or motifs from the novel.
Similarly, in Mark Fisher’s four ‘mirror’ pieces, the reflections of female characters appear in mantelpiece-framed Victorian mirrors, while torn scraps of paper, with handwritten lines from the book, adorn the mantels. These pieces are unsettling, challenging our perception: the images reflected back at us as we stare into the mirror aren’t our own and, seemingly, the figures in them could just as easily be watching us. ‘Beautiful in a quiet way’ is particularly haunting as we are presented with the back of a woman, herself staring into a hand mirror, a reflection within a reflection. There is a vulnerability in the lovely lines of her exposed neck and shoulders. We could almost reach through the mirror and touch her naked skin. But is she, in fact, watching us watch her?
Sally Meakins’ work, in particular ‘The Chamber’ and the enlarged image of ‘The Cell’ (pictured at top of article), are works in progress and will evolve and change over the course of the exhibition. They focus on Bertha’s imprisonment in the claustrophobic attic of Thornfield Hall, when, as Meakins explains, she’s ‘devoid of any sensory perception’, exiled from the light and the warm, lush beauty of the island on which she grew up; these pieces pay more than a nod to the Rhys novel. But it’s Helen Scalway’s single piece, ‘The Thornfield Papers’, that stands out most for us. A seemingly simple scrapbook contains wallpaper samples derived from the period, but it’s wallpaper with a difference – drawing on Edward Rochester and Bertha Mason’s memories of Thornfield Hall. While Rochester’s section includes intensely coloured papers in the red to purple spectrum, colours reflecting rage, passion, obsession, madness even, Bertha’s are, in turn, heartbreaking; her memories from the ‘prison on the third floor of Thornfield Hall’. The first features blackened, scorched paper with cut out palm tree fronds; the pages after are full of intensely bright tropical plants and trees, the landscape of her childhood, and a great contrast to the dark, locked room in which she’s confined at Thornfield. (Aruna Vasudevan)
Rehearsals began this week for an energetic National Theatre adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, which hits York in the spring.Coincidentally, The Times reviews Sally Cookson's adaptation of Federico Fellini’s 1954 film La Strada.
This version was originally presented in two parts at Bristol Old Vic. Later it was re-imagined as a single performance, playing to sold out houses at the National Theatres’s Lyttelton Theatre in London. [...]
The National Theatre/ Bristol Old Vic co-production begins its tour in Salford in April before coming to the Grand Opera House for a week in May.
There is no stage director I would rather see adapt Federico Fellini’s 1954 film than Sally Cookson. In fact, I’d pay good money to see Cookson adapt almost anything. After her versions of Jane Eyre and Peter Pan, after family shows such as Hetty Feather and Cinderella: A Fairytale, she has proved herself as inventive and emotional a theatre-maker as we have. (Dominic Maxwell)A Vogue writer who has just turned 40 tells about 40 things she has learned in these 40 years. One of her suggestions is
Read: Beowulf, Blake, Beckett, Wharton, Brontë, Browning, Woolf, Wilde, Walker, Baldwin, Angelou, Ellison, Morrison. Canterbury Tales is torture; get it over quick. James Joyce will save you when you are 16. All of Arundhati Roy. Flowers in the Attic forever. More Mary Gaitskill. Stephen King is not smut, Mom. One day The New Yorker will publish his fiction. (Molly Guy)Bude & Stratton Post tells about a recent event at a local library:
Touring performers ‘Scary Little Girls’ presented poems, stories and music at Launceston Library recently to celebrate some of Cornwall’s favourite writers in conjunction with the South West Libraries Reading Passport.Cultured Vultures considers that Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is one of '4 Fantasy Books That Needed To Be Movies Yesterday'.
Uniquely combining literature, performance, chat and the odd tasty treat, they introduced the audience to some new and little known gems — side by side with much-loved Cornish and international names such as Emily Brontë, PG Wodehouse, Pauline Sheppard, Arundhati Roy and Douglas Adams.
I’ve probably talked about this series before on Cultured Vultures but that’s only because it is awesome. Set in an odd parallel universe where the Crimean War never ended, cheese is a black market staple and people can interact with literature and characters from it, you already know that you will love the world Fforde has created. It’s funny and knowing in a way that a lot of fantasy series are not, and would make a refreshing change from the dystopian fantasies that still seem to be in vogue at the moment.Pinky Cloud posts about several film adaptations of Jane Eyre. Classic Books, Modern Wisdom reviews Wuthering Heights. Finally, an alert for tomorrow, March 2, in Worcester, MA:
Granted, a lot of the fun of these stories comes from being books about books, and using all possible variations of that joke for effect, but they are also very visual. People who like books also like films, and who wouldn’t want to see literary faves like Miss Havisham and the Cheshire Cat fighting swarms of punctuation creatures and bickering in their council headquarters? The first book of the series, ‘The Eyre Affair’, features Thursday Next, the main character, chasing a master criminal through the pages of ‘Jane Eyre’, and attempting to change the ending that has, in the past, caused gang wars between groups of readers.
If this is all sounding a little bit insane, then you should read the books and then wait for what I think would be a great film. (Nat Wassell)
Anne Bronte's "Agnes Gray" is the topic for the Classics Book Group which meets in Barnes & Noble, Lincoln Plaza, Worcester, at 7 p.m. March 2. (Telegram)