Northern Ballet: Jane Eyre – Dance Review

Published in 1847, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre remains an incredibly popular and much loved classic novel; the story of a 'poor, obscure and plain' heroine who succeeds against all odds, finding self-worth, independence and, of course, love. However, for a novel famous for its poetic phrasing and Jane’s extreme wit and way with words, it seems perhaps an odd choice to be adapted for ballet. But, the inimitable Northern Ballet do seem to love a challenge, and they have certainly risen to the occasion here.

Dreda Blow is a wonderfully expressive adult Jane and her work with Javier Torres as the fire-y Mr Rochester is utterly spell-binding. From their first moments on stage together, the tension is palpable. It is always going to be tricky to replicate the importance of the ‘relationship of words’ between Jane and Rochester without any actual dialogue, but Cathy Marston’s detailed choreography perfectly echoes their verbal sparring from the text. She has beautifully built a physical language that is manipulated, toyed with and repeatedly referenced, which leads to a most moving end to the piece. The novel itself is well-respected for its revelation of Jane’s inner thoughts (extremely unusual at the time Brontë was writing.) As such, it is thrilling to see the moments where our characters emotions rise up physically through their bodies only to be swallowed and supressed – a wonderful nod to the novel for the literary minded in the crowd.

Antoinette Brooks-Daw makes for a furious, fierce and at times, frail young Jane as we journey back to her childhood. The scene where she fights with her horrid, bullying cousins is such clever fun, and her tortured movements over her kindly uncle’s grave are incredibly touching.

The entire ensemble are a delight. The dance at Rochester’s house is gorgeously executed by all and in particular, Abigail Prudames oozes sexuality as the socialite Blanche Ingram. Her pointed looks towards Jane in this scene are particularly shrewd. Special mention must also be made of the humorous Pippa Moore as the fussy and nervous housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax, and the utterly gorgeous Rachael Gillespie who perfectly captures the bouncy and frivolous energy of Mr Rochester’s excitable ward, Adele.

The set is largely comprised of several moveable sections, all broad brushstrokes and rounded curves in muted browns and greys. Gauze is also used to effect and consequently the brooding and mysterious moors cast their shadow over the entire production. Scene changes come thick and fast, but are executed seamlessly and are never distracting. Simple use of chairs gives us a sense of place. The costume is simple and functional but with enough of a period style. In particular, the fire red dress of Mr Rochester’s mentally disturbed wife Bertha, all torn and tattered, is a beauty, and echoes her sad tale perfectly.

If you’re unfamiliar with the novel I would probably suggest reading a quick synopsis before seeing this production. It whips along at a quick pace, plays with the timeline and some details might be slightly lost if you were unaware of the plot. But this is an incredibly detailed and adroit adaptation of the novel, which contains such delightful minutiae – the girls at the orphanage spelling out J A N E E Y R E as they learn to write, Mrs Fairfax’s nervous feet flickering en pointe, the trembling excitement that builds when Mr Rochester’s leg points fiercely, blocking Jane in the room with him. All beautiful moments, in a swift yet smooth ballet. One for the dance devotees and the literary lovers.

Jane Eyre
Aylesbury
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Fri 3rd – Sat 4th June, 2016

Then touring on to:

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Fri 10th – Sat 11th June

Stoke Regent Theatre
Tues 14th – Weds 15th June

Leicester Curve Theatre
Fri 17th – Sat 18th June

Credits

Cast

Jane Eyre – Dreda Blow
Edward Rochester – Javier Torres
Young Jane – Antoinette Brooks-Daw
Bertha Mason – Victoria Sibson
Grace Poole – Jessica Morgan
Mrs Fairfax – Pippa Moore
Rev. St. John Rivers – Jeremy Curnier
Diana and Mary Rivers – Dominique Larose and Mariana Rodrigues
Blanche Ingram – Abigail Prudames
Adele Varens – Rachael Gillespie
Helen Burns – Kiara Flavin
Mrs Reed – Jessica Morgan
Eliza, Georgina and John – Jenny Hackwell, Abigail Prudames and Matthew Koon
Rev. Brocklehurst – Mlindi Kulashe

Conductor – John Pryce Jones
Orchestra Leader – Geoffrey Allan

Crew

Choreographer and Scenario – Cathy Marston
Set and Costume Designer and Scenario – Patrick Kinmonth
Composer – Philip Feeney
Lighting – Alastair West
Live music from – Northern Ballet Sinfonia

© Carly Halse - Reviewed on Friday 3rd June, 2016.

Author's review: 
4