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A CurtainUp London Review
By Lizzie Loveridge
Go here for details on Jane Eyre at The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
Editor's Note: The following review spurred our interest in the Shared Experience Company's visit to BAM and is based original production of Jane Eyre at the Young Vic, London, October 1997. The play moved with the same crafts team but different cast to the New Ambassador during November and December 1999. It is that ensemble that appears in the BAM production
Polly Teale has imbued her adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre with physical energy and glorious staging. The title character (brilliantly portrayed by Monica Dolan) has the right severity and plainness of appearance, with a steely independence in evidence throughout.
Unusually, and peculiar to this production, the passionate side of Jane's nature is balletically acted out, mostly in mime by Pooky Quesnel who also plays Rochester's deranged wife Bertha. Ms. Quesnel spends much of the play raised high above the stage, drumming her feet, jerking and struggling as Jane struggles to surpress her passionate nature. At one point the two women talk in perfect unison which makes for high drama.
The excellent performances are proof of Polly Teale's power as director as well as adapter. Neil Warmington's set is domimated by a curved pewter grey staircase, with all the funiture and most of the costumes in this same grey. The cloudy sky too is grey, unlike any sky I have ever seen. The overall effect is of a world with colour taken out of it. Chris Davey's lighting lends nineteenth century atmosphere. It is all awe inspiring and frightening.
The visual impact of scenes like the white-aproned Victorian maids, their skirts swirling, as they struggle to restrain Jane and lock her into the red room. The dormitory created by having the actors lie down, flapping and draping a sheet over themselves is pure stage artistry.
The ensemble (seven actors in addition to Jane) fills a score of roles with consummate ease. James Clyde is a worldly, amusing and tender Rochester, making it easy to understand Jane's love and why she rejected a loveless marriage with the stuffy clergyman St John Rivers (Antony Byrne).
Clever scenes abound:
. . . As Rochester describes Jamaica's Spanishtown and his bride Bertha Mason, she dances flamenco and has dalliances with various men some of whom are effectively played the women.
. . .Rochester's dog Pilot is played by Antony Byrne who rolls over for his tummy to be rubbed.
. . .St John Rivers' hellfire sermon scene develops into the fire at Thornfield Hall, the fire fighters providing another great piece of movement from the cast. . . . When Jane is teaching in the Rivers' school and she descibes a hurricane, Rochesters comes out and whirls her around in her imagination.
All things considered a brilliant production.
©Copyright 2000, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp