No one tells it like Kate Beaton!
Between April 7th and May 17th of 2015, I read Jane Eyre. I liked it. I loved it. Published in 1847 under the pen-name Currer Bell, many look back on the book as a tale of girl power; a woman’s search for equality and freedom. It is my favourite gothic classic. I loved the character of Jane, her spirit and endurance. So imagine my excitement when I found out it was at the National Theatre. I missed the NTLive on 8th December, however I got a text from a friend. There’s a school trip going with extra tickets, if I could get to London, it was mine. I made it. It was the fourth from last performance. I was finally going to see my heroine on stage.
I did not like it.
Where to begin! The beginning. The show opened with a fully grown human imitating a crying baby. I hate that. I hate when plays or musicals, serious plays or musicals, do that. I’d rather a sound effect. Or nothing. I’d prefer nothing rather than an adult pretending to cry like a baby. I also don’t like that voice adults put on trying to be a child. You know that voice, the pouty voice adults think children sound like. Adult being children can be done, look at Blood Brothers! That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The director, Sally Cookson, made some strange choices in staging which made me uncomfortable and there were some inconsistencies that you wouldn’t expect from a National Theatre production. For example, and it’s pedantic I know, the school uniforms worn by the cast had sleeves. The uniform hung from the stage to represent more girl did not have sleeves. The clue is in the name: uniform. And they did a weird running thing to show travel, I like the music provided by the on stage and the humour but not the running on the spot.
They did get somethings right. There was real fire, that was cool. And the actor playing the dog Pilot stole the show. However, Mr Rochester (played by Felix Hayes) was Brain Blessed and I kept expecting to hear “Jane! Jane! Gordon’s alive!” Also, I know the production was three and a half hours long, but don’t insult me with a recap of Act 1 at the beginning of Act 2. I whispered “Last week, on Jane Eyre” to my friend. We shared a repressed laugh.
But the worst thing was the character of Jane. They made my strong Jane a brat. The voice put on Madeleine Worrall, the pout and her aggression filled me with rage. But a subtle and controlled rage that is shown by Jane Eyre in the fucking book! Excuse my French (Adele played Laura Elphinstone was spot on), but have they read the book? The production was devised by the company and there is no playwright listed so I’m going to have to blame the Dramaturg Mike Akers. They created little sympathy for the character, not that my Jane needed it, so it was hard to be emotionally invested in the character. Although the women sat behind me were really into it, I heard them whisper to each other “Kiss him! You love him!” which put a smile on my face. The only thing that put a smile on my face.
I’ve yet to read the programme, I look forward to see what excuses and reasons they have for ruining my beloved Jane Eyre. I’ll report back.