Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell
Reviewed – 3rd November 2020
“Kelsey Short’s Jane is a captivating and empowered northern lass with bags of inspiring grit”
How to compress a blockbuster three volume novel from 1847 into an engaging theatrical experience for audiences today? That’s the challenge that writer-director Nick Lane has risen to splendidly in this thrilling adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’.
It’s the work of South Hill Park’s resident company Black Eyed Theatre which has a deserved reputation for exciting and innovative theatre with minimal grant assistance.
Poor plain Jane. She’s the put-upon girl ‘whose capacity for love is seemingly limitless’ that’s at the giddying centre of this first person narrative. Her struggle for self-determination through the years from schoolgirl right through to motherhood is Brontë’s inspiring subject.
The cast are multi-instrumentalists and singers and take up to five roles each. The action takes place on a stark and impressively contemporary set by Victoria Spearing which is particularly well lit by Alan Valentine.
Kelsey Short’s Jane is a captivating and empowered northern lass with bags of inspiring grit. The splendid Ben Warwick is Mr Rochester, the mysterious owner of Thornfield Hall. In his high-waisted britches (costumes by Naomi Gibbs) he has a lean and hungry look and gives an energetic and winning performance.
This is the kind of rigorously honest production where all the cast are on stage almost all the time, even as they make their costume changes. Their tight ensemble work is the motor that keeps the energy up and drives the action forward. Camilla Simeon, Eleanor Toms and Oliver Hamilton are all compelling performers, deftly switching from role to role, and even instrument to instrument, mid-tune.
The story is something of a melodrama, albeit with plenty of humorous moments, so it’s appropriately broken up with plenty of folksy tunes and atmospheric musical mood-setting by composer George Jennings.
Reviewed by David Woodward
Photography by Alex Harvey-Brown
Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell until 4th November
Previously reviewed at this venue: