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Theatre Review: Jane Eyre

10 July 17 words: Tanya Raybould

Love was in the air when the original plain Jane came to town on Sunday evening.

Jane Eyre

Lower class, strong minded female character from a poor, troubled background meets wealthy male lead. Male lead could have his pick of any woman he may choose, so why would he fall in love with her? Not the plot to Pretty Woman, but the novel Jane Eyre

Although first published in 1847, on the surface, Charlotte Bronte's story has all the elements and relevance of a timeless modern day romance. However, this beautiful story is wrapped up in the same kind of haunting darkness as Wuthering Heights (it must be something about the Yorkshire hillsides) as we encounter classism, sexuality and religion.

Performed on a small stage with the magnificent Wollaton Hall as a back drop, the actors from Chapter House Theatre Company barely needed any scenery to bring to life Laura Turner's adaptation of the story of hope and determination.

Arriving at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as governess, Jane meets the enigmatic owner, Mr Rochester. However, as in most relationships, Rochester has 'got baggage', and by 'baggage' I mean serious baggage. Spoiler alert - for not only is Rochester married, but she's mad and living in the attic. OK, so that sounds a bit like a story in a weekly women's mag, but by the end of this stunning performance we find out just what Jane is willing to do in the name of love.

Ahead of its time in terms of bringing to life the emotions of Victorian women (it has been seen as one of the first "feminist" novels), Director Bryony Tebbutt brings Bronte's writing about these complex feelings to life.

The whole play is held together by just six performers, with several playing multiple roles, thanks to some fast costume changes and sheer talent. Standout performers come from Amy Llewellyn in the lead role as Jane and also Ricky Alexander Shaw as the passionate Mr Rochester. Special mention too to Lucy Forrester, who plays a staggering five roles, slipping effortlessly from excitable young French girl Adele to stuck up love interest, Blanche Ingram.

Sunday evening will stay with the audience for a long time, thanks not only to the marvelous writing of Charlotte Bronte, but the excellent production from Richard Main, superb acting from the cast, a beautiful Nottingham setting and the perfect summer evening weather.

 

Jane Eyre was at Wollaton Park on Sunday 9 July 2017. Nottingham Outdoor Theatre season continues to run until 1 September.

Chapter House Theatre website

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