Jane Eyre at National Theatre online
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it”.
Jane Eyre (Madeleine Worrall) has not had the easiest of childhoods. Orphaned at birth and deprived of love by her wicked Aunt Reed (Maggie Tagney), the troubled Miss Eyre looks for kindness elsewhere. In traversing the institutional confines of education and adopting the greatly coveted role of governess, Jane acquires far more than she could have ever bargained for.
As theatres and arts venues around the world go dark following the global outbreak of Covid-19, new avenues of creativity must be explored in order to continue bringing shows to audiences and entertaining them during this lengthy period of self-isolation. And so comes National Theatre at Home with its free online performance of Jane Eyre, broadcast for the thousands to see on top digital viewing platform, YouTube.
This production could not have arrived at a more fitting time. The world lives and breathes Jane’s anguish as she struggles with imprisonment. Longing for freedom and the right to live life on her own terms, Charlotte Brontë’s titular character kindles in us a complete sense of solidarity. Worrall is a breath of fresh air, whose entirely credible enactment of Jane, both as a rebellious young girl and later as a strong-willed adult, resonate profoundly with the public.
Hats go off to the creative team, especially set designer Michael Vale for his clever and crafty scenography, composed entirely of wooden planks and ladders, tiered to look like a house on stilts, embodying the remnants of a property caught on fire – an element very central to the plot.
What makes this piece a delight is the way in which it manages to retain its classic feel. Though the production is true to the original, a modern soundtrack and the use of physical theatre in scene transitions make Jane Eyre all the more thrilling to watch.
Photo: Manuel Harlan