The Rosemary Branch Theatre 29 January – 14 February. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Reader, I was bewitched.
Bryony J. Thompson’s production of Jane Eyre is simply stunning. This adaptation remains passionately faithful to the book, omitting any fluff and showcasing the dramatic and romantic set pieces – with style. Jane’s early years are dealt with in a few minutes – no lingering deathbed scene for poor Helen here! – and the focus moves briskly on to her life at Thornfield Hall.
With a stark white set, plain white period costumes and only 6 wooden chairs, the set design mirrors the script – stripped down and sharp – allowing the actors to revel in Bronte’s beguiling language and the audience to lose themselves in the performance.
The cast of 6 are on stage throughout, with Alice Coles, Jack Collard, Madeline Gould and Alice Osmanski slipping in and out of different roles seamlessly. Osmanski’s little Adele is a delight – all wide-eyed excitement and joie de vivre. Emilia Williams is an intense but mischievous Jane and Ben Warwick’s Mr Rochester is everything you want – stern, playful and damaged. Their flirtatious banter is funny and sweet, and the passionate build up to their first kiss is portrayed brilliantly.
Thompson’s decision to have the characters switching between direct speech and narrating is very effective. The scenes where Jane has an internal monologue, with Williams surrounded by the other women all taking rapid fire turns to voice her thoughts become frantic, intense and very moving. (There was one point where it became a little Bohemian Rhapsody, but it was fleeting.)
This production creates Jane’s world in the audience’s minds through the intoxicating language and sympathetic movement – Jane’s discovery of the fire is haunting and exciting, and all done with no effects or props – amazing, and wonderful to be trusted as an audience to use your imagination and intuition. The satisfied sigh (along with a few Sense and Sensibility grunts) at “Reader, I married him” that came from the audience sums up the whole night.
Beautiful, moving and intelligent theatre.