Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Tuesday, November 05, 2019 11:25 am by Cristina in , , , , ,    No comments
On Varsity, Jenny Lazarus writes about being assistant director in a stage production of Polly Teale's adaptation of Jane Eyre.
When I spoke to Georgina Deri about the challenges of staging a play adapted from a novel she explained that she had returned to the original text at a number of points. Teale’s adaptation, she tells me, “pushes the notion that Jane and Bertha are two sides of the same person, Bertha’s madness demonstrating the consequences of an over-passionate nature in Victorian society. I was keen to humanise Bertha beyond the idea of Jane’s passionate self. Re-exploring the relationship between Jane and Bertha has been potentially my favourite part of this process,” she continues. “Her interactions with the women in the play provide moments of respite from her devastating situation and suggest an element of female solidarity despite their powerlessness in a male dominated society.” Imani Thompson, the actor playing Bertha, tells me how much more authentic this interpretation feels: “I’ve really enjoyed telling a different – less clichéd and more sympathetic – story for Bertha.”
When I asked Georgina what else makes her production different she drew my attention to the original score and the use of live music, which she feels has added a new dimension to the show: “So much of the emotion and intention of Jane Eyre lies in the unspoken, what is left unsaid or unseen; using music allows Jane to express her passionate inner feelings out of view of society through the medium of movement, at times expressionistic.” In particular, she highlights the use of music in the travelling scenes, which enables “a connection to be formed between Jane’s physical journeys from place to place, and her emotional and spiritual journey to navigate the balance between feeling and reason.”
Music also features in the form of song when Mr Rochester and society belle Blanche Ingram sing a duet at a party at Thornfield. Frankie Richards (Blanche) tells me that this scene is her favourite in the play: “Mr Rochester just leaves Blanche while they’re singing a duet and he just walks off to talk to Jane! Luckily Blanche handles it like a boss and calls him out on it.” Ben Owen (Rochester) considers this scene an example of his character’s “sociopathic tendency to instrumentalise others for his own ends.”
When asked about the challenges of playing such a role, Ben explains that Rochester is “obviously not a bastion of sympathetic morality for the entire play, but in some ways that type of (quite starkly!) imperfect character is easier to play than the paragon of virtue.” Brontë’s characters, it seems, are loved for their moral complexities. Sophie Stemmons (Brocklehurst/Lord Ingram) tells me that she too has enjoyed exploring the less admirable aspects of her characters: “My favourite characters to play are ones with underlying darkness to them, so Brocklehurst has been a lot of fun!”
Kay Benson (Jane) gives me her thoughts on playing the eponymous role: “the greatest challenge is playing Jane over such a long period of her life, and maintaining a sense of character growth over 19 years. It is interesting to see how she is made who she is through the course of the play – the abuse she receives as a child, the constraints placed on her as a woman. Learning the accent has also been a good challenge!”
Charlotte Horner (Adele/Helen) tells me she has really enjoyed learning French and Yorkshire accents: “It’s a lot harder than it seems but has made for some really entertaining moments during the rehearsal period,” she says. “This show is such a great visual and theatrical interpretation of a classic novel, and I love how the alterations in the stage adaptation bring to life Brontë’s text, making it really exciting for audiences.”
A reader of The Guardian has written a letter to say that Philip Pullman’s Lyra may owe something to Cathy in Wuthering Heights.
I suggest Lyra owes something to Cathy Earnshaw, whose creator, Emily Brontë, was memorably characterised by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar as “Milton’s rebellious daughter”. It was Cathy for whom “heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy.” Substitute Oxford for the moors and I imagine Lyra would concur.
Emma Jones
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Westword also finds echoes of Wuthering Heights in the film Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
This French offering earned a screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival, and deservedly so, since the machinations that bring together Lady Héloïse, who's been instructed to wed against her will, and Marianne, an artist asked to paint her portrait surreptitiously while masquerading as her companion, offers a clever variation on gothics such as Wuthering Heights while keeping all the amplified feelings intact. Fire is (sorry, but it's appropriate) a slow burn, but when it ignites thanks to the undeniable chemistry between actors Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel, the flames leap high. (Michael Roberts)
La Razón (Spain) reviews Laura Ramos's Brontë biography Infernales.
Sin embargo, todo esto ha tardado tanto en darse a conocer por lo que Ramos considera "un acto de amor". "Cuando murieron sus hermanas, Charlotte quiso restituir el nombre de la familia, reeditando libros y escribiendo prólogos en los que relataba la historia oficial", explica la periodista. Con esto, y ante el gran escándalo que provocaron los libros que redactaron estas hermanas por tratar temas, en aquella época, tabús, "Charlotte difundió la idea de que eran unas mujeres inocentes, inocentes, que no sabían de qué hablaban en sus obras". Se podría decir que, aunque esta no fuera la historia real, lo hizo para lavar el nombre de la familia. Sin embargo, hay que agradecer que la verdad ha terminado saliendo a la luz y que estas mujeres se conocen hoy día como lo que realmente fueron: inteligentes, cultas y feministas incluso antes de que éste término existiera. (Concha García) (Translation)
iCrewPlay (Italy) has an article on the Brontë sisters. On The Sisters' Room, Maddalena De Leo discusses 'The Meaning of Ferns for the Brontës'.


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