What we thought of The National Theatre’s Jane Eyre

Once again, The National Theatre screened another sensational performance into our living rooms, this time it was Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre in a version devised by the cast, and directed by Sally Cookson.

Jane is not technically an orphan. Both of her parents are dead, so she is taken in by her Aunt and cousins who physically and emotionally abuse her. Before long she is a residential student at the Lowood Institution eventually becoming a teacher there herself. Restless, she leaves Lowood to become a governess at Thornfield Hall, teaching a young French girl. Here, she meets her employer the dark and brooding Mr Rochester. Captivated by him, they bond, but Mr Rochester is hiding a dark secret.

With slick choreography, beautiful sequences and superb acting – Jane Eyre is brought to life with a simple set, crafted out of wood. With ladders, ramps and varying levels the action is constantly moving, the perfectly devised sequences providing the driving force behind the dramatisation.

From the red room to the lady in red, colours or lack thereof are woven beautifully into the set design and lighting, increasing tension and warning the audience that something bad is about to happen. The lady in red punctuates the action with her velvet smooth voice, always watching and waiting for her moment to truly be in the spotlight.

In this National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic co-production, live music throughout allows for movement and sequences of movement to come to the forefront of the story at certain moments, to show the passing of time or the moving from one place to another.

The production creates a haunting atmosphere, totally bewitching from start to finish. With a fast moving pace that does not falter – this is how theatre looks when a gripping narrative is skilfully adapted for the stage.

Madeleine Worrall (Endeavour, Holby City) is Jane Eyre. With a barely a moment off the stage, Worrall is captivating as Jane, playing her from a child to a grown woman and pulling at our heartstrings every step of the way.

Felix Hayes (Drunk History: UK, Friday Night Dinner) is the ominous Rochester. He glides around the stage, commanding our full attention yet leaving something totally endearing about his manner.

Laura Elphinstone (Line of Duty, Game of Thrones) provides a masterclass as she plays Helen – Eyre’s friend in the Institution, young Adele, Grace Poole and also St John.

They are joined by Craig Edwards who plays Mr Brocklehurst, Mason but also deserves a special mention for his portrayal of Rochester’s dog Pilot.  Maggie Tagney is Mrs Reed and Mrs Fairfax, Simone Saunders is Bessie, Blanche, Ingram and Diana Rivers. Melanie Marshall is Bertha Mason, and provides sensational vocals throughout the production.

This stripped back, re-imagined impressive contemporary performance from The National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic is available for the next 7 days.

The National Theatre Live have again provided us with a real treat, and next week on Thursday 16th April Treasure Island by Bryony Lavery will be broadcasting into our front rooms at 7pm from their YouTube channel.

Jane Eyre was filmed live on-stage in 2015 by National Theatre Live.

Missed Jane Eyre? Catch up here

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About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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