Walking in to the REP Birmingham theatre, is like entering a whole new universe. As soon as the doors slide open and you step into the brightly lit venue, something inside you changes immediately – as if the air that circulates in that space consists of different substances; or maybe it is the agitation and stifled impatience that surrounds you. But you have to forgive me; I am not fully impartial when it comes to theatre. It is the art I have grown up with, and even twenty years later, it still awakes in me the sweet taste of an innocent child’s admiration.
My companion collects our tickets from the reception and we are being directed towards the auditorium where the performance is to take place. We will be enjoying the production ‘Jane Eyre’, based on Charlotte Bronte’s renowned novel, and presented by the National theatre in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic. For those familiar with the story, you know you are in for an emotional and fiery play; I walk in, slightly nervous of my own high expectations, and we take a seat at the final row from where the stage is fully visible. The narrative follows the growing up and life experiences of a woman with strong morals and a spirited nature. Jane is a passionate and independent character who feels repressed by the society and the woman’s role in it. Being raised to hide her sensitivity and present herself as modest and obedient, she struggles with her feelings of love for Mr Rochester, the Byronic master of fictitious Thornfield Hall. Gradually, Jane’s beliefs prove stronger than the social model that she is forced to follow; her kind and loving nature unfold in front of us, exploring social issues ahead of its time, such as proto-feminism, sexuality, class discrimination, and more.
Well, I must admit, we were not disappointed at the slightest. Director Sally Cookson has really succeeded in capturing the emotional depth of Bronte’s novel. A bold and enchanting piece is brought to us on stage and it is a delightful and unforgettable experience. And by the end of it, I am in love with Nadia Clifford’s Jane Eyre. Do not take this woman off the stage. Her transformation is mesmerizing and so believable I can easily forget we are still in the theatre.
That said, this little piece of magic we are being treated with is a result of the collaborative efforts of all the lovely cast. Tim Delap’s Rochester shines on stage with the pride of a man who stands his grounds; Hannah Bristow, Paul Mundell, Melanie Marshall, Evelyn Miller – so many talented individuals who complete the play’s spell on us and enrich the experience with their dedicated performances.
A very unique director’s choice is the inclusion of an instrumental band, live performing on stage in unison with the cast. It allows the action to flow in a way that cannot be achieved with background recorded music, and it gives the play a beating heart which rhythm pulsates through the observers, and drags them further under the magical hypnosis.
We leave the auditorium pleased with the evening. Neither me, nor my companion are used to sitting down for such a long period of time – around 3 hours with a 15-minutes interval – but was it worth it? Oh it was definitely worth it. A part of Nadia’s Jane Eyre has taken place in my heart and I am now filled with inspiration and fire.
Review by Sophie Canare for Grapevine Worcestershire @sophiecanare
The National Theatre’s energetic and imaginative new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece – Jane Eyre, comes to Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 4 – 16 September as part of a major twenty-one city tour of the UK.