Friday, April 14, 2017

Several reviews of the Manchester performances of Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre. Almost all of them are positive:

Manchester Evening News
Initially, I was fearful on hearing this was a modernised version of the classic Victorian Bildungsroman. But Brontë fans need not fear, Cookson has stuck to the original plot and Victorian setting but has thrown in some theatrical devices to enhance the tale of Jane's development. (...)
For the UK tour Manchester born and bred Nadia Clifford, a former Parrs Wood student, has been cast as the trailblazing Jane.
She shines throughout the performance, remaining onstage for the entire show with the development of Jane conveyed through costume changes taking place in front of the audience.
It's also a nice change to hear Jane portrayed with a real regional accent, particularly apt for the first night of the show in the North.
The set, which could almost be mistaken for a trendy new bar in Ancoats, is made up of wooden platforms on different levels and ladders to transform Lowood into Thornfield Hall. (...)
Although some traditional Brontë fans may grimace at Rochester's "F***k" when he falls off his horse, Cookson has not done injustice to the novel and the swearing - and other modern touches - makes Jane's story feel real as well as relevant to modern day audiences. (Alexandra Rucki)
Oldham Evening Chronicle:
The result is a long but satisfying evening that offers rounded, complex characters and only marginally skimps on the storyline. It will help if you know the book, but the story is pretty clear if you haven't, and Jane gets the true gender-heroine status literary history has given her.
Manchester actress Nadia Clifford is a no-nonsense, admirable leading lady, a woman of today in a long-forgotten past in which women learned embroidery so they would have something to do in the evenings... (...)
It's not what anyone might have been expecting, but all credit to Cookson for bringing Brontë into the modern age. (Paul Genty)
Mancunian Matters:
[Nadia] Clifford – while arguably a little too forthright in the role at times – brings an unrivalled amount of passion to the stage.
This is rather fitting because, let’s be honest, the Brontës were nothing if not passionate.
It should be noted that Clifford’s efforts stretch much further than just nailing the characterisation though.
Instead, she possesses a seemingly unnatural amount of energy that allows her to be on stage throughout the entire three-hour production.
It’s almost astounding to watch as she climbs up ladders and speeds past her fellow actors without once breaking a sweat or skipping a beat.
Similarly, Tim Delap appears equally at ease as he plays the notoriously complicated character of Mr Rochester.
In fact, the pair’s chemistry alone is enough to carry this production to a hit and makes it easy to invest in the will they/won’t they storyline. (Edward Roberts)
The Bolton News:
The play also captures the light with splashes of comedic colour; extracted best through the constant musical backdrop, and Victorian gentleman, Tim Delap's Rochester’s scripted jolts of modern ironic humour, flirting with 21st century expletive vernacular.
He is a well delivered character of bright sparks, but dark persona, deepening the play’s embodiment of depression and delusion in the secrets of his house. “We are all burdened by faults in this world, Jane.”
The production is 21st century triumph of a Victorian classic, almost cinematic in delivery, but loyal to its traditions. Highlighting some of the best evidence of 19th century literary dexterity, this beautiful psychological gaze into Victorian Yorkshire is something to behold.
Oh, and they pulled off the accents too. (Will Wolstenhome)
The Reviews Hub:
Jane Eyre has long been forced to suffer the misrepresentation of being Brontë’s seemingly fated romantic heroine, fodder for many creative and dramatic interpretations, predominantly focusing upon the romantic attachments formed by the protagonist. How refreshing to witness an Eyre so clearly and confidently self-sufficient – this ‘love story’ is more an exploration of the development of ‘self-love’, made all the more poignant by the heroine’s humble beginnings.
What is notably evident with this piece is the ownership of every line, movement and glance. Nothing is wasted, no moment, however fleeting, is superfluous. Sally Cookson’s skilful choice to originally devise this piece in the rehearsal room has conceived a depth born only through free exploration of a story by an allied but differently minded company of individuals. Jane Eyre has been challenged, unpicked and born again. Even in this reincarnation for touring, there is a true sense of possession by the company. (...)
This piece is surprisingly engaging throughout its entire length – in excess of three hours. Sally Cookson has masterfully created a world in which to immerse oneself, rather than a two-dimensional representation of events. A beautiful experience. (Mel Duncan)
I Love Manchester:
However, the production of Jane Eyre now on at The Lowry as part of a UK tour, is pretty incredible.
It’s the story of the protagonist’s somewhat troubled childhood, her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, the master of Thornfield Hall, where she goes to work as a governess.
With incredible direction by Sally Cookson, this production is true to the novel and the era in which it is set, but includes some modern theatrical elements and songs. (...)
I even found myself getting a little teary-eyed at the end which was beautifully romantic and a mirror of the beginning, with similar staging and the same line being repeated.
If you’re a fan of theatre then you will enjoy this production. Brilliant performances, wonderful effects, fantastic use of physicality and incredible songs, it really does have it all. So, if you can, go and see it. Whether you’re a fan of the classics, or just a theatre fanatic, it’s not a show to be missed. (Selina Helliwell)
Northern Soul:
I like the choices made here with Bertha – she is the most vibrant character in the production with her flame-red dress and beautiful songs. But she is pipped to the post for my affections by Pilot the dog (Paul Mundell) who is adorable and a welcome bit of natural love in among the many conflicts.
Everything here is stripped back – story, aesthetics, dynamics. The place to sit and reflect is in the music courtesy of the live band; songs offer reflection. The characters run and climb through the narrative in such a way that Jane, as in Brontë’s novel, has no chance to grasp the good bits until the end. Good for her, she deserves it. (Cathy Crabb)
Frankly, My Dear:
While most of the story is told in the first half and the second act is much shorter in length, this doesn’t detract from the performance with the cast earning a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.
This particular adaption of Jane Eyre is more of a coming-of-age story not really seen in other adaptations, but it makes the performance all the more thought-provoking. (Vikki Ruter)
Upstaged Manchester:
Director Sally Cookson’s adaptation is set amongst a bare wooden frame, with platforms on varying levels used throughout the performance. Adapting a novel for the stage is a challenging prospect, especially such a timeless classic – however, Cookson states that by not approaching the piece as a costume drama, allowed the company to explore the themes and get the heart of both the story and the characters in a theatrical way. Choosing to adopt an authentic set and period costume would have suffocated the story Cookson says, and in doing so would have killed the magic. (...)
The production received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd, I suggest you see it. (Elise Gallagher)
Messenger has probably the most lukewarm of all reviews:
It's adapted for stage by Sally Cookson who originally wrote a marathon two part, four and a half hour version. It is still jointly performed by Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre.
Even the new timing of three hours, 15 minutes is long but it remains gripping.
Not so gripping is the set, a wooden structure with metal ladders which seems far too futuristic for the times. Where are the sweeping staircases of Lowood Hall?
The acting offsets this. Nadia Clifford plays the feisty Jane with confidence. There’s a lovely moment when she realises she has fallen in love with Tim Delap’s oh so masculine Mr Rochester. (Julia Taylor)
The Sheffield Telegraph interviews Sally Cookson:
“The relationship with Rochester is very important, it’s the meat of the story,” concedes the director. “But people think of Jane Eyre as a love story. The subtitle of the book is Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. That was a big clue as to what the book was about. I think it is a coming of age story. We don’t meet Rochester until a quarter of the way through the book. “The childhood and adolescence are crucial in order to understand where she is coming from and her experience. Without all those experiences you wouldn’t get an insight into who she is.” (...)
“Music is vitally important,” explains Cookson. “One of the things I wanted to do was find a way of telling this extraordinary story and getting it from the page on to the stage. As a theatremaker I like to use different elements not just the spoken word. In order to get inside Jane’s head and find that extraordinary and peculiar mind and imagination and strong will and determination it needs to be explored in a theatrical way, not just hearing what she is thinking through text. We worked very hard on allowing music and movement to tell the story with the result it becomes very visual.” (Ian Soutar)
Another review can be read on Fairy Powered Productions.

The Times-Union on the release of the To Walk Invisible DVD:
Okay, so I’ll admit that aside from knowing that they wrote famous novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, I know next to nothing about the lives of the three Brontë Sisters: Emily, Charlotte, and Anne, who are the subjects of this movie about the three siblings’ rise to become authors who would someday become staples of English classes around the world. While the film is a bit on the bleak side, it also tells the story of the hardship that brought about one of the great literary families of the 1800s. Worth a watch, especially if you’re into the classics. (Mike Spring)
Financial Times discusses the presence of actors of colour in period drama:
In 2011, director Andrea Arnold did make a bristling version of Wuthering Heights that took a cue from Emily Brontë’s description of a “dark-skinned gypsy” and “little Lascar” (the contemporary term for Indian sailors) to cast black actor James Howson as Heathcliff. But the film met a hesitant critical response, and clearly had no influence on British film’s next big-ticket period production, a comically luxe Far from the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan that joined the explosion of post-Downtown Abbey period TV, from Call the Midwife to The Crown, all of it starkly mono-racial. (Danny Leigh)
The Daily Mail reviews the YA novel Evie's Ghost:
On the first night, she notices a message scratched into her bedroom window, then wakes to see a girl’s face through the glass, crying for help.
This Wuthering Heights parallel then takes on a life of its own, as Evie gets up next morning dressed as a housemaid and discovers it’s 1814. (Sally Morris)
Erica Jong writes in BBC Culture about why female characters have to be likeable:
But when it comes to women – every critic feels that he or she has the right to complain. I once read a 19th Century review in which a cranky male critic said of Jane Eyre, “I would never hire her as a governess!” This may seem funny to you – it’s certainly absurd, but it happens all the time to women who write. (...)
The world is full of wonderful women writers. From Sappho to Emily Dickinson to Charlotte Brontë and her sisters, we have always written and written well. We have produced Middlemarch, Jane Eyre, Beloved, White Teeth, The Country Girls, Possession –  too many to name here. But while Philip Roth waits for his Nobel, we are poised for the next attack. No wonder young women get writer’s block and decide to stop writing and get pregnant instead.
National Review and Tri States Public Radio reviews the film A Quiet Passion:
A Quiet Passion’s intense re-creation of the literary past is like only two other movies, André Téchiné’s supernal The Brontë Sisters and Alan Rudolph’s dazzling Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (about Dorothy Parker). (Armond White)
Intelligently feminist without ever shouting, A Quiet Passion gives us a poet who, physically but not intellectually isolated, is an avid reader of fellow nineteenth-century women writers George Eliot, the Brontës and "even, heaven save us, Mrs. Gaskell also." (Ella Taylor)
Fictional role models in The HR Digest:
Jane Eyre from ‘Jane Eyre’ teaches us how to get up and keep moving forward no matter what. (Anna Verasai)
The Real Estate section of The New York Times gets poetic in this description:
This rare Central Park Historic District studio resembles a grand salon in a European castle. Its soaring ceilings and carved wood details conjure scenes from Shelley and Bronte, or perhaps a common room at Hogwarts.
The French publication of  Lettres choisies de la famille Brontë 1821-1855 is still in the news. Reviews:

Le Figaro:
De ses deuils, il reste des lettres magnifiques et pudiques. Cet autoportrait non prémédité, plus exact et émouvant qu'une monographie, se complète par les lettres de sa famille qui ont été conservées. Celles de son frère Branwell décrivent la déchéance d'un esprit prometteur. Celles d'Emily sont d'une rareté et d'une austérité caractéristiques. A l'approche de sa mort, Anne laisse des lettres en forme de professions de foi. Quant au père Brontë, il révèle une tendresse et un humour inattendus, bien loin des traits sévères sous lesquels on l'avait dépeint. (Françoise Dargent) (Translation)
La Croix:
 Deux cents ans après la naissance de Charlotte, Emily et Anne Brontë, que reste-t‑il aux admirateurs pour connaître leurs vies ? Deux sources d’information : la visite de la maison familiale, à Haworth (lire ci-contre), et la lecture de leurs correspondances, seule trace tangible de leurs pensées et actes. Aucune de leurs lettres, parmi les mille retrouvées, n’était encore parue en français. La traduction de trois cents d’entre elles est un événement, dans une édition particulièrement soignée, avec des notes contextualisant chaque lettre, rendant la lecture aussi agréable que captivante. (...)
On ressent, omniprésent et très tôt, le poids d’un destin funeste dont tous ignoraient l’ampleur, les morts se succédant, poignantes – l’agonie d’Emily (fin 1848) et celle d’Anne (au printemps 1849) déchirent le cœur : « Je n’ai jamais vécu d’heures plus sombres », écrit Charlotte, qui disparaîtra en 1855. (...)
Familières mais étonnantes : on découvre une Charlotte pleine d’humour – comme son père –, très protectrice avec les siens, aussi fougueuse dans la confidence de ses humeurs à son amie que sujette parfois à la mélancolie. Tout sauf un esprit lisse et docile, mais un esprit droit et bon, faisant beaucoup penser à la personnalité de Jane Eyre. (Sabine Audrerie) (Translation)
The same Sabine Audrerie has visited Haworth and the Parsonage:
La visite des pièces de la maison apprend plus qu’on aurait pu croire. Celle de la cuisine, par exemple, dont on sait l’importance dans Les Hauts de Hurlevent. Elle montre que la vie des Brontë fut très ouverte. Les sœurs étaient très proches de leurs domestiques, qui leur racontaient les potins du village. La tradition orale a joué un rôle crucial dans la genèse de leurs romans. « Ces histoires ont imprégné Emily », explique Amy Rowbottom. « Aux gens qui tiennent Branwell pour l’auteur des Hauts de Hurlevent on peut objecter que c’est impossible tant il s’agit d’un “roman de domestiques”, où la narration de la servante Nelly joue un rôle central. Si Branwell l’avait écrit, l’intrigue aurait eu lieu dans un pub, non dans une arrière-cuisine ! »
« Emily était la plus farouche, elle n’était pas très sociable, et préférait ses chiens et ses chats », ajoute Ann Dinsdale, conservatrice du musée. « De même nous ne pensons pas, contrairement à ce qui a été dit, que Branwell ait inspiré le personnage manipulateur de Heathcliff. Son comportement ressemble plus à celui de Hindley. Emily a beaucoup puisé dans les lectures qui étaient à leur disposition – Walter Scott, Byron –, et dans les histoires anciennes de la famille et du village que leur père leur racontait. »
Les fans du monde entier convergeant à Haworth y amènent souvent leurs propres visions et leurs hypothèses farfelues, que les nombreux documents exposés viendront démentir ou étayer. L’émotion est en tout cas palpable. Ann Dinsdale s’en réjouit pour les Brontë : « La puissance de leurs écritures, leurs vies si particulières, la dimension tragique, la lande environnante… Tout ici crée un ensemble propice à la fascination… » (Translation)
Página 12 (in Spanish) reviews the film Frantz:
En cambio a Adrien solo le queda el recuerdo obsesivo, el fantasma amado que persigue a su victimario como en Cumbres borrascosas, y también las recurrentes entradas y salidas en los neuropsiquiátricos, una vida de mentiras y el casamiento apresurado por una madre dominante que quiere una vida normal para su hijo. (Adrián Melo) (Translation)
Several reviews of the film The Young Lady:

de Verdieping Trouw (in Dutch):
Hetzelfde geldt voor de zwarte acteurs die je niet vaak ziet in Victoriaanse kostuumstukken. Oldroyd is niet de eerste die daar verandering in brengt. De Engelse regisseuse Andrea Arnold liet zes jaar geleden in haar film ‘Wuthering Heights’, Heathcliff voor het eerst door een zwarte acteur spelen. (Belinda van de Graaf) (Translation)
France Ouest (in French):
Déjà adaptée une première fois au cinéma par Andrzej Wajda dans les années soixante (Lady Macbeth sibérienne), l’intrigue du livre a été délocalisée dans la province anglaise du XIXe siècle. Une manière pour le réalisateur William Oldroyd de marcher sur les brisées des Hauts de Hurlevent, Jane Eyre ou Loin de la foule déchaînée, classiques de la littérature victorienne, tous portés à nouveau à l’écran ces dernières années. (Cédric Page) (Translation)
RTBF (in France) interviews the director of the film, William Oldroyd:
Quand j’ai vu Lady MacBeth pour la première fois, cela me faisait penser à un livre, à une pièce, à du Shakespeare ou à un autre auteur russe mais je n’aurais jamais pensé à un film. Quelle était votre intention première quand vous avez voulu vous lancer dans cette aventure en adaptant ce livre, cette pièce? (Jean-Marc Panis)
William Oldroyd: Je pense que ce qui m’a attiré dans le projet, c’est que je n’avais jamais vu de film qui traitait de ce sujet. Cependant, après avoir terminé le tournage, je me suis rendu compte qu’il existait une version des années 1960 d’Andrzej Wajda mais quand j’ai lu le livre, je me suis demandé pourquoi personne n’avait jamais adapté cette histoire. En effet, une version des "Hauts de Hurlevent" sort tous les deux ans, une version de "Jane Eyre" sort tous les trois ans, la BBC adapte tout le temps des livres de Charles Dickens… On voit toutes ces adaptations sans jamais lire l’œuvre originale. De fait, quand Alice Birch, la scénariste, m’a donné le livre, j’ai tout de suite pensé que c’était l’histoire idéale, que le personnage de Katherine était tellement puissant, tellement complexe, tellement compliqué. Je la trouvais parfaite pour un film. (Translation)

The new Black Blox Theatre company in St. Albans is thinking "of working on Polly Teale’s Brontë or... some Shakespeare” according to The Herts Advertiser; Keighley News presents the upcoming performances of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in York; Culturamas (in Spanish) discusses Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre; Gorgeous Yorkshire posts about the Wuthering Heights: A Manuscript initiative at the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Returning to Reading reviews the Emily Brontë novel.


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