Director: Sally Cookson
Devised by: the cast and the director
Based on: Charlotte Brontë’s novel
Cast: Madeleine Worrall, Felix Haye, Craig Edwards, Melanie Marshall, Laura Elphinstone
Seen on: 8.12.2015
Jane Eyre (Madeleine Worrall) is an orphan, growing up with her aunt Mrs Reed, who treats her rather badly. When Jane shows signs of rebellion against this treatment when she’s ten, she is sent to boarding school. 8 years later she leaves there to take up a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall, which belongs to Mr. Rochester (Felix Haye). Jane and Rochester quickly connect with each other – but there is a secret in Thornfield Hall.
Jane Eyre is an incredibly earnest production. I felt reminded of more than one youth theatre productions I saw that tries very hard and very seriously to teach you something about life by knocking you over the head with symbolism. A lack of cynism can be extremely nice but when handled with the subtlety of a battle axe, it becomes tiring and annoying. It worked so little for me, it was practically painful.
There are many things that were okay about the production although not really my cup of tea – the constant running, the minimalistic stage design, the overwrought phyiscal acting style, the talking in unison – but bundled together, it all became pretty insufferable and even managed to make the parts that I would have liked in another setting feel less than. That goes mostly for Melanie Marshall, who provides singing commentary every once in a while with a beautiful voice and nice song choices, but it never really becomes as poignant as it could have been. [Only through reading the cast list did I realize that she is supposed to portray Bertha Mason, a point that completely passed me by during the play.]
But there were also parts that weren’t even okay, they were just plain bad. Felix Haye as Heathcliff was one of those things. And it’s not that Haye is a bad actor, it’s just that he was completely miscast with his boyish, not bad-looking face that stood out even more because the Jane we got – Madeleine Worrall – was surprisingly old (which I didn’t mind in the least).
They also made the entirely weird decision to introduce the sudden inheritance subplot but never actually finishing it, reducing Jane’s happy end to an entirely romantic one that doesn’t grant her financial independence and makes her choosing Rochester weaker for it. That choice on the company’s part is especially surprising as the rest of the production is obsessed with showing Jane as an untameable force of nature who wants nothing more but independence and her own life. Although at the same time, this version of Jane is the weepiest version yet, another weird decision.
I just couldn’t warm to this version of Jane Eyre – a character and a story I generally don’t warm to easily, although the 2011 movie has at least proven it’s possible.