Based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel, deemed by many as ‘one of the greatest works of English fiction’, the theatrical adaptation at the Lowry in Salford set expectations high.
It’s 2017, and the original text was published in the autumn of 1847. Far from outdated, The National Theatre’s performance of Jane Eyre proves that stories of heartache, turmoil and a fight for freedom are eternal and they do indeed stand the test of time.
The night began in the Lyric Theatre, the biggest stage at the Lowry. The parameters of the stage and the large heights were used superbly, hanging lights and descended frames were often used on stage to indicate a variety of settings.
The stage itself housed a large wooden structure comprised of pallets and ladders, creating a multi-functional and multilevelled stage setting. This structure was creatively employed into every scene, transforming from a domestic setting to outdoor spaces.
Whilst the structure on the stage was impressive, it was perhaps the structure of the play that demonstrated endless amounts of creativity whilst still not straying far from the heart of the novel it was based on. The play began with the birth of a child, “it’s a girl, it’s a girl, it’s a girl” and ended in much the same way.
From the birth at the very beginning, we are introduced to Jane Eyre. She is described by her aunt as a tiresome young thing and is outcasted from the estranged family unit. She is unloved and subject to terrifying treatment when locked in ‘the red room’.
After being placed in Lowood school, the actress who plays the then 10-year-old, grows before our very eyes. She becomes a governess and takes a job at Thornfield Hall, and it is here where she meets Mr Rochester and the classic tale of love and yet more heartbreak ensue.
Despite a small cast, comprising of just 10 actors, the performance of each character is executed perfectly. Jane, played by Nadia Clifford, captivates her audience with a voice that demonstrates her inner turmoil and passionate desires.
Similarly, it was easy to be blown away by the level of musical talent. Positioned on stage underneath the wooden structure, the 3-piece band play alongside the other cast members. Throughout the production, audiences are blown away by one actress who is voiced only through song. Her eery presence forms the backdrop to her eventual discovery.
At one of the most climactic points, the song that followed the action on stage was a rendition of Gnarl Barkley’s 2006 hit ‘Crazy’. Whilst at first this seemed out of place, the lyrics perfectly narrated the struggle with mental decline in one of the most beautiful and touching ways.
With the use of fire on stage at two points during the show, the performance was electrifying and the emotions were almost palpable.
With the show (including the interval) spanning over 3 hours, Jane Eyre is not for the faint hearted. And yet despite its length, the theatre remained full until the final bows, with a multitude of audience members giving standing ovations.
TNT Arts & Culture