Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 10:58 am by Cristina in , , , , , ,    No comments
Edinburgh Guide gives 4 stars out of 5 to the local performances of Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre.
In this stripped back and stunning adaptation, Sally Cookson has turned the greyness inside out and focussed on the incredible strength of spirit of this young woman whose character is diametrically opposed to the stereotypical woman of her time, and indeed could give lessons in plain speaking now.
From birth to Jane’s confined physical life, Nadia Clifford utterly embraces her character at every stage. With conviction, she portrays Jane as honest, sensitive and passionate on her journey to live independently at a time when the odds were particularly against her, seeing herself as nothing short of an equal to a man. ‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.’
Her bemusement at being asked to shed old boots and don fineries for her wedding to Tim Delap’s unkempt and ramshackle Rochester is especially stark.
Among the cast who take on several roles, Paul Mundell stands out with his beautifully enunciated Irish accent as Mr Brocklehurst, before bounding and wagging as Pilot the dog to the audience’s delight.
The poor demented Bertha Mason is represented by Melanie Marshall with haunting music that includes rich, tingly versions of Does that make me Crazy? and Mad about the Boy.
Michael Vale’s set, like a giant wooden playground with metal ladders, extracts necessarily highly physical performances from the ensemble cast who provide Jane’s inner thoughts and strike some dramatic tableaux.
Live music is played under a ceiling of Beaubourg style lights and pulleys that hold strings of surprises.
The whole performance is enclosed within three walls of giant white curtains that act as sponges for the lighting from Aideen Malone that evokes miserable rain streaks, the horrors of the red room where Jane is punished, and the blue of when ‘It is a bright sunny day. The rain is over and gone’.
Dominic Bilkey’s bone-shaking thunder and insistent rhythms of a steam train, that were signalling change in Brontë’s time, add to the atmosphere of this epic piece.
Sally Cookson’s radical version of Jane Eyre was originally presented in two parts at Bristol Old Vic. It then transferred to the National Theatre where it was re-imagined as a single performance which explains its three hour duration.
The call ‘It’s a girl!’ that opens and closes this audacious adaptation is a joyous battle cry. (Irene Brown)
Edinburgh Evening News also gives it 4 stars.
In the title role, Nadia Clifford is a force of nature. Energetic, inquisitive and instantly engaging, she hops from vignette to vignette as Jane’s life unfolds in a collage of stylised movement and a clear, crisply delivered script. Scenes are further lifted by the gifted vocals of Melanie Marshall who sings the role of Bertha Mason. It is a stunning performance with some unexpectedly poignant renditions of familiar tunes, never more so than her electric delivery of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, during which you could hear a pin drop. Also on fine form is Lynda Rooke who slips effortlessly between Jane’s cold, bitter aunt, Mrs Reed, and the lovable, kindly house-keeper Mrs Fairfax. Two entirely disparate characters. As Rochester, Tim Delap’s ‘trite, commonplace sinner’ is an earnest man, peculiar, distracted and distant. Elsewhere, members of the company flit from role to role, creating, on the whole, beautiful little cameos. With the band on stage throughout (padding for Michael Vale’s stark modern design) the production soars until shortly into Act Two at which point the impetus is lost. An accessible, if slightly over-indulgent production then, but one that is well worth seeing, if you can afford the time. (Liam Rudden)
The Reviews Hub also gives it 4 stars, summing it up as 'Confident and Compelling'.
Featuring a strong company of actors, each individual is well cast in their respective roles, delivering solid, confident performances. Nadia Clifford is a feisty, bolshy Jane unlike any you will have ever seen on the silver screen. Her Jane is no wilting wallflower, but instead a full-blooded, fiery, determined young woman, and Clifford’s passionate delivery of Jane’s lines (some of the longer speeches are lifted vertabim from the book) is stirring and heartfelt. Her Jane is also stoutly northern, although her accent wanders west of the Pennines if truth be told.
However. while it’s impressive that the company are able to morph into different parts, scenes such as the human stage coach lack some finesse and polish (perhaps due to a total lack of props). Moreover, while the part of Pilot is a tricky problem for a production team to solve, and though Paul Mundell is very convincing, it brings a little too much comedy to certain scenes, for example, the emotional finale.
The lighting design is simple but effective, enabling bright colour, such as the red room, to reflect boldly off the white voile that lines the three stage walls. However, more dimming of the lights between scenes would improve the fluidity of the drama – some of the staged deaths are rushed and lack dramatic pause; the actors standing up and walking off stage all of a sudden with the lights still up while other actors continue to look on.
The set is minimalist (typical of a National Theatre production) and generally functions well in enhancing the underlying themes of Jane Eyre. There are some clever sequences involving windows that serve as nice theatrical metaphors for Jane’s fluctuating imprisonment and liberation, and the positioning of different characters on the varying ladders and different levels of the stage set is heavy with symbolism but effective. Although it seems a lost opportunity that Bertha Mason appears more times at the lowest point on stage, often under Jane’s level, as opposed to above her (up in the attic).
The live musicians are fantastic and the singing, in particular the soulful, versatile voice of Melanie Marshall is mesmerising. However, overall musically, this production is saturated with too many different genres to the point where it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be and lacks cohesion. Though it’s impressive that hits like Mad About the Boy and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy have infiltrated the realm of the Brontës, it does seem rather forced. There are also musical episodes that seem to borrow from bands like The Lumineers, jazz and blues and there are even reminiscences of Colin Matthew’s World War One inspired No Man’s Land. Whilst, some of these influences seem appropriate, the overall musical impression is disjointed.
Overall, however, this is a confident and compelling production and re-interpretation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel. Moreover, it is a memorable and genuinely different version than that which audiences will have seen on TV and in cinemas. (S.E. Webster)
The F Word reviews the play No Place for a Woman:
Mental health is not discussed explicitly, though it is a strong theme of the play. Annie’s symptoms are not taken quite as seriously by the people around her as they would be now. They are also simply misunderstood. Her behaviour and placement towards the end of the play are reminiscent of the ‘mad’ Bertha Mason in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, who is locked away to try and contain violent and challenging behaviour which does not fit with the passive feminine ideal of the time. (Samuel Sims)
And more theatre as The Times reviews Winter Hill at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, in which
[Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker] flings about numerous cultural allusions, from the Brontës to Macbeth, from Aristophanes’s Lysistrata to the Easter Island statues. (Sam Marlowe)
And a last note on stage matters as Otago Daily Times describes Rebecca Vaughan's one-woman-show, Jane Eyre. An Autobiography, recently seen at Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival as 'spellbinding'.

Signature Reads interviews Tracy Chevalier and asks a question about last year's anthology Reader, I Married Him.
SIGNATURE: This certainly isn’t the first time you’ve taken a cue from classic literature, or art of the past. Among other works, last year you edited an anthology inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s infamous line, “Reader, I married him,” from Jane Eyre. Do you find yourself naturally gravitating towards the classics when working on your own writing?
TRACY CHEVALIER: It’s not deliberate. In both instances – Shakespeare and Jane Eyre – I was asked, and a commission is quite different from a natural inclination. Having said that, I do look to the past a lot for inspiration, and that is where most of the classics – whether books or paintings or tapestries or poets – lie. (Meghan McCullough)
America Magazine doesn't like the Jane Eyre similarities and references in the latest screen adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.
It is the dark and unsettling tale of a poor orphan. Abused as a young child and then traumatized in an institution, the plain and wounded girl finally finds a place that feels like home. But as soon as she lets down her guard, the people she believed could offer her the love she longs for break her trust. Our heroine takes flight and wanders into the night with nowhere to lay her head.
Ah, the story of Jane Eyre, you might say. I know that bleak tale of woe and moor-wandering!
But you would be mistaken. It is “Anne With an E,” the new retelling of L. M. Montgomery’s whimsical Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables. [...]
The new series is full of Jane Eyre references (even the episode titles are drawn from Jane). The filming reminds one of Cary Fukunaga’s 2011 version of “Jane Eyre,” with its beautiful candlelit scenes, in which each frame could be a painting by Georges de la Tour. The new series makes Anne’s early years like those of young Jane, abused by the family she lived with. It turns Anne’s orphanage into Jane Eyre’s Lowood, and even the kind Reverend Allan of Montgomery’s book is warped into a grim Mr. Brocklehurst, who sternly lectures Anne about lying. The result certainly is not Montgomery’s Anne but a clumsy mix of painfully melodramatic additions that feel awkward next to the handful of excellent scenes that bring life to the original tale. (Haley Stewart)
Lady Macbeth is back on BrontëBlog thanks to a review from Belper News:
Later, the screen relaxes soaking up moorland landscapes with an enthusiasm reminiscent of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights. (Natalie Stendall)
This is not the first time we read about Céline Dion's song It's All Coming Back to Me Now and its connection to Wuthering Heights. The Awl is not thrilled about it:
[Songwriter Jim Steinman] also says on his website that he wrote the song, “under the influence of Wuthering Heights.” This checks out — the song is melodramatic and tortured as hell. Consider the first verse:
There were nights when the wind was so cold / That my body froze in bed if I just listened to it / Right outside the window / There were days when the sun was so cruel / That all the tears turned to dust / And I just knew my eyes were drying up forever. The song goes on to paint the picture of a narrator who “banished every memory you and I had ever made,” likely due to the fact that the relationship was a very abusive one. A later verse explains:
There were those empty threats and hollow lies / And whenever you tried to hurt me / I just hurt you even worse and so much deeper. That’s not great. While this does bring up the specter of physical abuse, with all the context around the song, it seems more clear this is a kind of obsessive, emotional abuse. Steinman explains:
It’s like Heathcliffe (sic) digging up Kathy’s [sic] corpse and dancing with it in the cold moonlight. You can’t get more extreme, operatic or passionate than that. I was trying to write a song about dead things coming to life. I was trying to write a song about being enslaved and obsessed by love, not just enchanted and happy with it. (Scott Rogers)

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