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Review by Olivia Gardener.
Jane Eyre is one of the classics, a book which sits on the shelves of many people. The novel by Charlotte Brontë, although generally thought of as a love story, is in fact the story of a woman fighting against the constraints of the society in which she lives. A concept which I thought would be pushed aside to make room for the romance between Jane and the handsome Mr. Rochester in this stage adaptation; however, thankfully it was not. The play focuses not only on the relationship between the two, but also our heroine’s life and back story, staying true to the book which was original subtitled ‘An Autobiography’. This fact really allows the audience to connect with Jane and see her not as a stereotypical maiden in distress who is saved by a good-looking, wealthy land owner, but to view her for what she is; a woman who is limited not by her abilities, but by the social constructs and gender roles of lower class woman at the time in which she lives.
Furthermore, the play itself was an absolute delight to watch! The set was – surprisingly – extremely simplistic and consisted of many connected ladders, ramps and steps to guide the actors around the stage. Although at first it seemed quite strange and looked like an accident waiting to happen, it eventually grew on me and my imagination filled in the gaps. In addition, the cast was a fairly small one, yet no more than needed; they seemed to fill the stage, in times of suspense running around on and off stage to create the illusion that there were more of them. The cast also took on roles of animals when necessary – which sounds rather silly but worked quite well and provided a comedic component to give the audience a break from the seemingly pitiful life of poor Jane Eyre.
Moreover, the play was an explosion of visual and sound elements coming together to create a stunning spectacle; again simplistic, yet very effective. The music was probably what made the play, for me at least, come together perfectly. Eerie folk music drifted throughout the play, but was only used where needed – yet I felt really made the links to the following scenes much smoother and allowed the play to flow better as a whole. The band even played live on stage, I mean what more could you want? Although a drum kit and a piano right in the centre of the stage could be a bit of a distraction you would think, it was interweaved within the set; some of the musicians even took on small acting roles at times.
Overall I think this play shows how a great piece of literature can be brought to life on stage and demonstrates perfectly how a book can be adapted for this format. Whether you are familiar with Jane Eyre or not, you’re in for a treat!