Jane Clegg at Finborough Theatre Online
The Finborough Theatre has joined many other art institutions in making their latest and greatest performances available online whilst the theatres are still, sadly, closed.
Finborough presents Jane Clegg, a recorded 2019 adaptation directed by David Gilmore. Written by St John Ervine, Jane Clegg was first performed in 1913 and was considered revolutionary for its time – sitting alongside Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. The Finborough Theatre and Gilmore bring this retelling to audiences, showing its modern relevance.
The play, set in the living room of the Clegg household and in the style of its original period, looks into themes of class – working versus upper class – and gender – the role of a male and female, husband and wife in marriage. From the offset, the audience is told that Jane’s husband Henry (Brian Martin) is unfaithful. This (not surprisingly) makes Jane question her own loyalty, as Henry fails to maintain his, and her forced position in her marriage due to the constraints of society.
During the 20th century, the husband would work and earn for his household. The money he had in his name determined the worth of his family. Jane comes into a considerable amount of money, making her technically wealthier than her husband. Jane, however, wishes to keep the funds for her children when they come of age. This decision is not welcomed by Henry, who secretly needs the funds to settle debts and an affair.
In Ervine’s portrayal of the married couple, the roles feel reversed; Martin plays Henry as secretive and confident, yet when times get tough he reverts to childlike behaviour, ironically stating, “I am a man not a child”, in the hope of appeasing his wife, wishing the situation would disappear. Martin squirms and begs forgiveness from his wife for his wrongdoings, yet Jane is the figurehead of the family and is forced to sort out his problems with her own money.
Jane, played by Alex Dunmore, portrays a strong, independent woman who is disappointed with her husband, considering herself above him. Dunmore sustains a steady tone of voice throughout the piece to show her dislike of the situation. She maintains a low eyeline, which corresponds to her position in society, yet casts an aura of power around her. Compared to her unsettled husband, she is stoic and assured, producing a feeling of calm and stillness throughout the entire piece.
The wider cast is used to enhance the themes and lead characters’ circumstances, however, the endless rhetoric from Henry’s mother played by Maev Alexander becomes tiresome and distracting to what could have been some moments of real tension between the couple.
The play comes to a head when all of Henry’s demons appear in their house; it is revealed he owes debts for gambling and has cashed in a cheque from his employer all to pay for his mistress and soon-to-be-born child. Martin paces forwards and backwards, unable to interpret his inescapable predicament. Jane, the head of the house, remains in control despite tears falling down her face. She knows that society can’t change her situation, so she simply banishes her husband from the house and watches the chaos unfold, disillusioned.
Photo: Carla Evans
Jane Clegg is available to watch on Finborough Theatre’s YouTube from 5th June to 5th August 2020. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch Jane Clegg here: