Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017 11:33 am by Cristina in , , , ,    No comments
The York Press reviews Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre giving it 5 stars.
You will not see a better theatre show in York this year, and you won't have seen a better theatre show in York since The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. [...]
Your reviewer cannot urge you enough to see Sally Cookson's remarkable interpretation of Charlotte Brontë's no less remarkable novel. Yes, the ticket prices are on a Premier League scale, and you wish they could be cheaper, but this is Premier League theatre. What's more, Jane Eyre is a Yorkshire story, back on home turf after Cookson's premiere at the Bristol Old Vic and subsequent transfer to the South Bank.
Rather than being adapted for the stage with a plodding narrator, this is a devised production of vivid, vital imagination. Michael Vale's set is rough hewn, gutted to the minimum, with wooden flooring and walkways, a proliferation of ladders, a sofa, and yet it evokes everything of Brontë's harsh world.
Cookson's cast is multi role-playing, aside from Nadia Clifford's Jane Eyre, who never once leaves the stage in three hours (interval aside), changing costumes in full view with the assistance of fellow cast members. The story hurtles along so fast, the ensemble company runs on the spot between scenes to the accompaniment of thunderous drums, and they even take a mock piddle at one point in the rush to crack on: one of the comic elements to counter the grimness up north.
Energy, energy, energy! And that applies not only to Clifford's feisty, fiery Jane Eyre, whose accent may curve towards her native North West, but that in no way lessens her performance. The cast as a whole is magnificent, be it Tim Delap's troubled Rochester, Evelyn Miller's triptych of Bessie, Blanche Ingram and St John; Paul Mundell's austere Mr Brocklehurst and tail-wagging Pilot the dog; Lynda Rooke's chalk and cheese Mrs Reed and Mrs Fairfax or surely-too-good-to-be-an understudy Francesca Tomlinson's five-hand of roles.
There is so much more that makes Cookson's production so startling,movingly brilliant: the sound design of Dominic Bilkey, the inexhaustible movement direction of Dan Canham; the beautiful, haunting compositions of Benji Bower for the on-stage band of David Ridley, Alex Heane and Matthew Churcher, who join in ensemble scenes too and never take their gaze off the action.
Last but very definitely not least is Melanie Marshall, the diva voice of Bertha Mason, a one-woman Greek chorus whose versions of Mad About The Boy and Gnarls Barkley's Crazy will linger like Jane Eyre in the memory. (Charles Hutchinson)
York Mix is enthusiastic about it too:
The entire cast (of what seem like dozens) are standouts: from the wagging tail and leg stumping glee of dog Pilot, played by Paul Mundell, who also gives us an imperious Brocklehurst and shifty Mason; to the brittle hatreds of Mrs Reed, and warm generosities of Mrs Fairfax, both played by Lynda Rooke.
We do not doubt we see nearly 20 characters before us. When Evelyn Miller (Bessie, Blanche Ingram, a solicitor, St John) is on stage, we are unable to look away: she brings grace to even Blanche, and is part of the chorus of Jane’s conscience, her own past peopling her thoughts.
Hannah Bristow is saintly Helen Burns, rascally child Adele, mysterious Grace Poole, and Diana Rivers, moving easily among characters perhaps five decades apart in age. [...]
The only mild failing is the robust sound which at one or two instances obscures an actor’s words: but at these times, the powerful cacophony illustrates the uproar on stage. I only minded because I want to catch every nuanced phrase!
This is an athletic production, a feminist reading of a feminist book, one that returns to the ‘coming of age’ aspect of a book originally subtitled ‘An Autobiography’.
The love story is just one part: Brontë, and director Sally Cookson, remind us that women had (have?) less power over their choices than men; imagination, bravery and education can save us; and that Jane speaks for us all when she states “I am a free human being!”
At the show I saw, Nadia Clifford wiped away a few tears as the cast gathered to bow. The story of finding one’s power, and maintaining this self-belief, is potent.
Please catch one of this week’s shows of Jane Eyre. The music is amazing: the production company could sell the soundtrack (hint, hint, Sally Cookson!). And the tale, inspiring. (Rose Drew)
British Theatre Guide reviews it as well:
Cookson’s ensemble—seven actors and three musicians—are superb. Nadia Clifford excels in the leading role, powerfully capturing the character’s defiance (she refuses to be belittled by her social superiors) and her overwhelming love for Rochester. Also terrific is Tim Delap, who delivers all the Byronic qualities you could hope for while also capturing Rochester's playfulness and sly sense of humour.
Most of the performers demonstrate their versatility in multiple roles. Having chilled us to the bone as Mr Brocklehurst, the villainous supervisor of Lowood School, Paul Mundell delivers a brilliant comic performance as Rochester’s canine companion, Pilot. Lynda Rooke skilfully captures the icy disdain of Mrs Reed and the genial warmth of Mrs Fairfax, Rochester’s housekeeper. Evelyn Miller captures the haughtiness of Jane Eyre’s love rival Blanche Ingram and the cold idealism of St John Rivers, and Francesca Tomlinson is particularly moving as Jane’s ill-fated childhood friend Helen Burns.
As with her recent staging of La Strada, Cookson makes music an integral part of Jane Eyre by placing the band (Matthew Churcher, Alex Heane and David Ridley) centre stage. Throughout the production, their excellent musicianship is crucial to the creation of atmosphere and pathos.
Music and drama come together most powerfully in the figure of Bertha Mason, Rochester’s first wife, played by the opera singer Melanie Marshall. Since the publication of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea in 1966, we have seen more sympathetic portrayals of the first Mrs Rochester which acknowledge the harsh treatment she has been forced to endure as a result of her insanity. Far from being a frenzied wildcat, Marshall—dressed in a floor-length red dress—is a still and sinister presence on stage, who haunts Jane throughout her life. Her beautiful renditions of anachronistic pop songs—Noël Coward’s “Mad About the Boy” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”—add another dimension to the production.
Katie Sykes’s lovely costumes evoke the period without fetishizing the past. Aideen Malone’s lighting and Dominic Bilkey’s sound add texture to the production, particularly during its more gothic moments.
Since it was first staged at the Bristol Old Vic in 2014 before moving to the National in 2015, Jane Eyre has received widespread critical acclaim. I can’t argue with their verdict. Jane Eyre is a thrillingly inventive, fabulously entertaining piece of theatrical storytelling. (James Ballands)
Your Local Guardian is giving away a pair of tickets to see Jane Eyre at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.

Lincolnshire Live reports that,
Writers of all ages are being invited to pen their own ultra-short Gothic stories in a new 'flash fiction' competition for Lincoln Book Festival this year, open for entries now.
The Gothic genre is broad in nature and can include romance, thriller and mystery. Whether drawing on the intrigue of a Wilkie Collins thriller, the drama of a Brontë epic, or the menace of an Edgar Allen Poe parable, each writer's challenge is to produce a compelling short story in precisely 50 words - no more and no less!
Lincoln Book Festival 2017 takes place from September 25 to 30 at venues across the city and will be encouraging literature lovers and history enthusiasts of all ages to "Go Gothic" with a series of Gothic-themed events and activities.
Lincoln Book Festival Trust chairman Phil Hamlyn Williams said: "Gothic fiction has given us some of the finest literature in the English language, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, so even within the confines of those 50 words we hope to see writers of all ages and experience let their imaginations run wild. We'd particularly like to see entries from local schools, book clubs and community groups and hope writers will have great fun planning, plotting and penning their short stories." (Dawn Hinsley)
Spectator has an article on 'Finding literary inspiration in the garden' and recalls the fact that,
Literature is full of gardens. [...] The love between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester blossoms in the gardens of Charlotte Brontë’s novel. (Alice Dunn)
J Stor Daily has an article on depression and how it's perceived.
American author Ernest Hemingway famously said, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” Hemingway died by taking his own life at the age of 61, a life plagued by alcoholism.
Hemingway’s claim reflects a widespread association of depression with intelligence (and vice versa, of happiness with stupidity or naïveté), an association that is at once deeply tragic and actively harmful for depressed people. It suggests that there is some hidden romantic upside to being depressed: Aren’t artists usually moody and melancholy? Aren’t romantic heroes, like Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff, given to “darkness” and brooding? Isn’t depression a sign of sensitivity, self-awareness, and passion?
In this way, depression is often linked to an abundance of romantic imagery—the gothic, the bohemian, the melancholy, the icon of the loner-rebel, etc. This misconception convinces some people that depression is just part of their personality, such that seeking treatment would mean being somehow less themselves, less thoughtful, less creative. In reality, the experience of depression couldn’t be further from the creative, the romantic, the passionate. For clinical depression, unlike the emotion of sadness, works only to devalue and destroy the self. (K.C. Mead-Brewer)
Ebony points out that not everyone in classic novels is white:
On the other hand, instead of racebending every costume drama character, it would be great if studios didn’t whitewash the characters of color who are in these classic stories. Take Wuthering Heights for instance. The character of Heathcliff isn’t White like he’s been portrayed in the movies. Instead, he’s described as a lascar, which is an antiquated term referring to Indian sailors. Also, further description provided by Emily Brontë—which includes a now-offensive term—could also mean Heathcliff is of the Roma people, who did originate from India and went on to migrate to other parts of the world. In any event, he’s not White. However, he’s routinely played by White actors, at least until the 2011 indie adaptation of Wuthering Heights, which starred then-unknown actor James Howson as Heathcliff. (Monique Jones)
The Express Tribune's The Good Life (Pakistan) reviews the book Aadhay Adhooray Khawab by Shahid Siddiqui in which
we find the character of Agha reading Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ and the character of Heathcliff intrigues her. Rai, a man loved by so many, would become Heathcliff to her Catherine and this parallel makes the novel a beautiful composition of light and pure romance. (Sonia Irum Farooq)
Ed Westwick was once named as a possible Heathcliff so it's quite funny to see him described by Radio Times as
all gold jewellery and chest hair, with the broodiness of a Home Counties Heathcliff, the tattoos of a rocker and the abrasive language of a docker. (Craig McLean)
 Out and About … writes briefly about a trek to Top Withins.

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