Jane Eyre at the National Theatre #Review

Is it serendipity, fate or coincidence?

I have a new boss at work. And as we got in the lift last Thursday she asked after my night in London- having  seen Our Country’s Good we were very quickly exchanging our favourite ways to spend solo time as parents- ways to keep a semblance of sanity. She mentioned how many good things she had heard about Jane Eyre, which opened at the National this month, I was interested but I had no overnights in London on the horizon.
By the end of the day I was looking for a hotel to accommodate me for two nights the following week.
And in turn, as I searched for theatre tickets, there was one ticket remaining for Wednesday’s performance of Jane Eyre.
Jane Eyre at the National Theatre

It had been a tough couple of days at work, and I really didn’t want to rely too much on a piece of theatre to renew my mood.
Throughout the performance I was attempting to rein my enthusiasm in, tempering a change of mood with wanting to know my mood really was being changed.
It really did, for me, check every box. I loved the set, I loved the full use of the space as dresses and lighting moved in; I loved the musicians incorporated on stage, the awesome voice of Melanie Marshall- and the incorporation of ‘Mad About The Boy” by Noel Coward (and widely known for the Dinah Washington track) and ‘Crazy’ by Gnarles Barkley; I loved the script, I loved the feminist presented, along with heart-wrenching, soul-filling love; I loved the humour- I loved the human dog- Pilot (doffs hat to Craig Edwards); I loved the interchanging roles; the symbolism. 

Basically the everything.

And of course, the background, a two-part version of Jane Eyre was devised by Sally Cookson to be staged at Bristol Old Vic. Following a successful run it was invited to the National Theatre, and distilled into a single event.

Sally Cookson, the director, describes her history with Charlotte Brontë’s most-famous novel/ auto-biography; the multi-faceted character- the weight of individual human rights; a life story. And to me, whilst it was a multi-influenced script process, the perception, the journey from a powerless child into an independent, free-thinking adult is clearly brought to the stage by Madeleine Worrall.

Madeleine Worrall adeptly brings Jane from babe to adult, seeming impossible through type but through the stage, it is of course possible. Exploring her childhood and the influencing factors is cleverly transposed- from child in an unloved home, to life in an institution; becoming a governess, and then, most relevantly- taking control- and gaining an ownership of self. To life with, and without, and forever with, Rochester.

Oh yes, I was hook, line and sinker. And judging by the audience reaction, I was in amongst true romantics.

The performances were faultless, the script brought out the best that the audience could want- to provoke thought and to satisfy the need for a happy ending, the set design whilst seemingly minimalist was intelligent- ridiculously clever in taking us on the journey, transposing to the National Theatre and making a full use of space, the incorporation of music was seamless- from a programme with musicians and actors featuring together- to a clever interweave throughout the play, with the musicians featuring within the set.

Whilst is may well be close to 170 years since the words were committed to page, it seems everything is as it once was.

For good or bad, the themes are as relevant as they have ever been.

And definitely for good, this transfer to stage, and to script, definitely renews the love once again.

Jane Eyre is staged at the Lyttelton Theatre with a running time of 3 hours 20 mins approx including interval.
A co-production with Bristol Old Vic, playing at the National Theatre to 10 January.

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