Jane Eyre at Sadler’s Wells
Northern Ballet’s production of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre tours once again, this time at Sadler’s Wells.
The choreography, direction and scenario thought up by Cathy Marston bring the adaptation to life. Given the length of the original story and Jane’s inner monologues, Marston, alongside her collaborators – set and costume designer Patrick Kinmonth, lighting designer Alistair West and composer Philip Feeney – successfully tell the tale of the eponymous protagonist with passion and an absorbing intensity.
Antoinette Brooks-Daw’s young Jane is cast well, expressing the troubled childhood with her cousins Eliza, Georgiana and John. Matthew Koon’s physical bullying is simultaneously elegant and violent, going under Brooks-Daw in detailed assemblé, pushing her to her limits, while Jane’s aunt Mrs Reed (Ailen Betancourt) is foreboding, clad in all black – not unlike an evil stepmother in a Disney film.
Jane’s time at Lowood – a charity school for girls – embodies the synchronicity of ballet fittingly, with the dancers slamming their grey slates one by one in rhythmic formation. The chorus of male dancers, aptly named ‘D-Men’, represent Jane’s demons and inner conflicts as they crowd around her. The lead’s clean, swift arabesques and angst-ridden allongé depict her character’s unsettled life with depth and intensity. During these scenes, the older Jane, (Dreda Blow) is behind a screen, still noticeable to the audience.
Kinmonth’s sparse set design and modest costumes reflect Brontë’s novel fittingly, ensuring dancers are seen clearly without scattered props. The protagonist’s friendship with Helen Burns is brief (Kiara Flavin), the closeness poignant, her death as sad as in the novel. With the appearance of Byronic Edward Rochester (Javier Torres), there exists an instant onstage chemistry between him and Jane. His surliness is striking as he stretches out his leg in a pointe, keeping Miss Eyre in his company a little longer. When he arrives after horse riding, an accidental drop of the harness by a member of the chorus is mostly unnoticeable, and quickly corrected, the passing of gear around the chorus cleverly visualised. Blow’s Jane has similar characteristics to Brooks-Daw’s, but her desires intensify with Rochester, unable to keep away from him.
Many of the characters are well cast; alongside the lead couple, the smug Blanche Ingram (Abigail Prudames), the sprightly Adele Varens (Rachael Gillespie) – Jane’s student and Rochester’s ward – and the intimidating performance of Bertha Mason by Victoria Sibson, particularly during the fire scenes, her character given a new sensual representation as she grabs Jane’s wedding veil and entangles it between her legs. St John (Sean Bates) is a tedious character in comparison to the other protagonists, but Carston’s loyalty to the novel doesn’t go amiss, and both parts of the show enthral in their depiction of the heroine’s life.
Feeney’s musical compositions truly lift the piece into more than a dance performance, transcending mediums with Kinmonth’s muted costumes and Carston’s entrancing choreography, the sequences projecting Jane’s story to the forefront, alongside the romantic love story. It is a challenge to translate a beloved 400-page novel into ballet, but the production successfully captures the essence at the core of this classic tale as we see Jane come into her own, stepping away from Rochester in the final scene, facing the audience, strong and determined to find her own path in life.
Photo: Emma Kauldhar
Jane Eyre is at Sadler’s Wells from 15th May until 19th May 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.