Thursday 2 June 2016

Jane Eyre – Northern Ballet, 1 June 2016

Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre is backed by Patrick Kinmonth’s sparse, modern set evoking the windswept moors yet successfully transforming into Lowood School and Thornfield Hall. Stylised choreographic motifs are established early on with a young Jane (played expertly by Antoinette Brooks-Daw) being tormented. The use of these throughout and the free-flowing exchange of Brooks-Daw and Dreda Blow as adult Jane serve as a constant reminder that her strong character, her tics and preoccupations are direct results of her difficult childhood.

In her first interactions with Rochester (a confident Javier Torres) we see this deviant spirit present as he tries to exert his dominance over her. Even in the more intimate scenes she never becomes submissive, staying true to the feminist figure she is so often interpreted to be. Both their movements soften, however, as they melt into their beautiful pas de deux, so wrapped up in each other that they fail to notice Bertha’s stalking figure behind them. Marston cleverly re-uses movements later with slight variations in how they’re danced to show the tortured, necessary separation of the lovers and their desire to stay together.

The staging creates great atmosphere and the small space is used to great effect. Jane’s separation from Rochester and his wealthy guests is highlighted by the colours of the costumes, the different stances of them, raised on a rostrum at the rear of the stage with Jane in her dreary dress down stage, visibly unhappy. Recognition must also be given to the choreography and performance of the character of Adèle – childlike, playful, and with a huge grin plastered on her face throughout she captures perfectly the energy of Jane’s charge.

This is a quality addition to Charlotte’s bicentenary celebrations, and one that I hope will make many reappearances over the years - Brontë’s famous novel is masterfully condensed into less than two hours. The staging, movement, and music are modern and yet pay homage to the traditional. Philip Feeney’s score is beautiful and memorable, wrapped around the skillful performance of the Company. The production is faithful to the original whilst doing something new with the material, very appropriate for a novel so ahead of its time.

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