Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hampshire Chronicle reviews Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre as seen at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.
Director Sally Cookson has struck just the right balance in keeping the original plot and characterisations in tact whilst adding a timeless appeal and many modern devices to this brave new retelling of a literary classic.
The most striking of these is Michael Vale's set design. It basically resembles a children's climbing frame with wooden platforms and ladders, a backdrop of white drapes and floating window frames (carried by cast) to suggest claustrophobic buildings and institutions as Lowood becomes Thornfield Hall.
The constant movement and exertion of the cast serves to portray the passing of time and the physical movements of the central characters amplifies the emotions they feel.
Lighting is powerful too- not least when scarlet lighting creates the terrifying Red Room where orphan Jane was locked and mistreated as a child.
Despite the timeless set, the cast wore period costume - all apart from vocalist Hannah Bristow, dressed in a glamorous red gown whose songs Mad About the Boy and Crazy mirror the love story unfolding on stage between our heroine and Rochester and ironically serve as a reminder that she is 'the mad woman in the attic' who Rochester cannot conceal.
Nadia Clifford's portrayal of Jane was spell-binding. Never off the stage, her energy and the emotion she brings to the part is astounding. All her costume changes take place before us with costumes arriving on coat hangers hung from the ceiling and placed on her by the cast like symbols of her social status.
Tim Delap is a wonderful Rochester, capturing the complexity of his moody and brooding character.
And special mention should go to Paul Mundell whose portrayal of faithful dog Pilot is a joy and adds invaluable humour to the gloom.
But it was a great team effort by all who worked incredibly hard to cover multiple roles and there was an excellent bunch of musicians on stage too adding the exceptional sounds and dramatic impact.
Were Charlotte Brontë alive today she would have been impressed I'm sure. The production opens with the cast declaring "It's a girl" - and the play ends with these words too, almost like a feminist proclamation of female power over adversity, whilst also announcing the inevitable circle of life. (Hilary Porter)
Today at 2pm, The Janice Forsyth Show on BBC Radio Scotland will feature this adaptation, which arrives in Scotland next week.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte's coming of age story that also critiques Victorian attitudes towards gender and social class, was first published 200 years ago. Fittingly for such an impressive anniversary, the National Theatre stage adaptation of the novel is currently on a 21 date national tour and opens in Scotland next week. Jane and Rochester will be in studio.
YorkMix features the production as well.

USA Today reviews Sarah Shoemaker's novel Mr Rochester, giving it 3 stars out of 4.
Reader, he marries her. (But you knew that.) What you didn’t know but now learn, over the course of Sarah Shoemaker’s satisfying new novel Mr. Rochester (Grand Central, 449 pp., *** out of four stars), is how closely Edward Fairfax Rochester’s early life mirrored that of his famous love, Jane Eyre. [...]
For devoted Jane Eyre fans, one of the keys to Rochester’s life is certainly the doomed Bertha — the woman he meets and marries in Jamaica when sent there to manage his father’s property. The origin story of one of literature’s most famous madwomen has already been deftly imagined by Jean Rhys in Wide Sargasso Sea. Here, Shoemaker focuses on Edward’s inner life as he becomes so entranced by Bertha’s beauty and charm that he allows himself to be rushed into marriage despite warning signs.
Jamaica’s violent slave history is an effective part of Edward’s story, too, and Mr. Rochester suffers when this thread is dropped as the action transfers back to England.
The book’s last third will be familiar to Brontë’s readers, but there is a distinct pleasure in encountering Jane Eyre’s characters — Grace Poole, Mrs. Fairfax, Miss Ingram — from another angle, and Shoemaker vividly renders each in a recognizable yet new role.
Oddly, it is Jane herself who comes least into focus in this book, perhaps because the two lovers’ famed banter is less compelling when seen from the rich master's eyes, rather than from his smart and poor employee. And no change in viewpoint can rescue a scene as memorably wacky as Rochester disguising himself as a gypsy in order to toy with Jane’s affections.
Plot events pile up rapidly toward the end so that Rochester must contend not only with dangerous hidden Bertha but with a young usurper to Thornfield Hall who bears a distinct resemblance to Rochester’s wayward older brother.
If you haven’t read Jane Eyre, suspense is keen as the climactic end approaches. If you have — as will most of those who come to Mr. Rochester — the novel’s dramatic final act provides the quieter pleasure of revisiting one of literature’s great love stories from a fresh perspective. (Emily Gray Tedrowe)
More new releases, as Barnes & Noble recommends some new books:
Dear Reader, by Mary O’Connell
English teacher Miss Sweeney is bookish Flannery Fields’ favorite thing about life at Sacred Heart High School. So when the woman goes missing, leaving her purse behind, Flannery is on the case. Inside the purse is her only clue as to her teacher’s whereabouts, the supernatural item that tips this book into the realm of the surreal: a copy of Wuthering Heights, whose original text has been replaced by a diary account of Miss Sweeney’s spontaneous escape to New York City, where, off her medication and increasingly unwell, she searches for her recently deceased former love. Flannery follows her to Manhattan, then is led on a chase around the city, accompanied by a very interesting boy and the constantly updating diary. This genre-bender features lit-up language and a story (Melissa Albert)
Bookbub Blog recommends '17 Books to Read If You Love Rebecca', including
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Orphaned Jane Eyre grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, where she endures loneliness and cruelty, and at a charity school with a harsh regime. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit — which prove necessary when she finds a position as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him and live with the consequences, or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving the man she loves? A novel of intense power and intrigue, Jane Eyre (1847) dazzled and shocked readers with its passionate depiction of a woman’s search for equality and freedom.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Considered lurid and shocking by mid-19th-century standards, Wuthering Heights was initially thought to be such a publishing risk that its author, Emily Brontë, was asked to pay some of the publication costs. A somber tale of consuming passions and vengeance played out against the lonely moors of northern England, the book proved to be one of the most enduring classics of English literature.
The turbulent and tempestuous love story of Cathy and Heathcliff spans two generations — from the time Heathcliff, a strange, coarse young boy, is brought to live on the Earnshaws’ windswept estate, through Cathy’s marriage to Edgar Linton and Heathcliff’s plans for revenge, to Cathy’s death years later and the eventual union of the surviving Earnshaw and Linton heirs.
A masterpiece of imaginative fiction, Wuthering Heights (the author’s only novel) remains as poignant and compelling today as it was when first published in 1847. (Kristina Wright)
Collider reviews the latest screen adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.
Seeing Anne running through the fields around Green Gables under a dark, overcast sky feels more Brontë than Montgomery (an allusion Anne herself makes), and it’s a tone that the series sets early on. (Allison Keene)
The British Film Institute has an article on 'How Bradford has changed in the 30 years since Alan Clarke shot Rita, Sue and Bob Too'.

On the girls’ school trip to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire, Sue is confronted by another girl about her relationship with Bob. The explosion of drama echoes down the quaint cobbled street, lined with teahouses and tiny gift shops. On the same street, today, you suspect the mouthy girls would turn just as many heads. The lane is just as twee, with 10 times as many gift shops and old-man pubs, and the same old-school phone box that’s had a new lick of paint. Then and now, it seems like worlds apart from Dunbar’s Buttershaw. (Oliver Lunn)
Cambridge Independent has Christopher Pressler give some tips on how to write a novel.
Forster, cross-legged in a chair, replied that books can be chaotic like a city, but, like a great city, can expand if stitched internally with rhythm. This is the theft from music as pattern is from painting. And as with music, what is not said is as important as what is heard. This is the case in Wuthering Heights, so much left unuttered, so many storms and screams.
The Globe and Mail discusses having things vs decluttering.
Similarly, one of poet Emily Dickinson’s eccentricities included dressing all in white. And before he began writing his wonderful new biographical film A Quiet Passion, director Terence Davies visited the Dickinson homestead not only to feel where she’d been but to see one of her dresses for himself. It’s a plain and unremarkable frock (“She was as small as Charlotte Brontë,” he said) and among other average household artefacts but it’s these banal objects that make her more alive. “Ordinary things,” Davies told me during an interview. But her things. (Nathalie Atkinson)


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