Friday, March 14, 2014

"It's a girl..."

While Theatre Royal Bath usually stages scripted plays, Bristol Old Vic recently has been going for adaptations of familiar tales: Great Expectations followed by The Little Mermaid and now, most ambitious of all, a 2-part version of Charlotte Bronte's classic Jane Eyre.  Seeing the whole thing takes over 8 hours if you go for matinee and evening performance, which is what Rosie and I did, using the break for tapas at our favourite dockside bar El Puerto. This double-production has had cracking reviews and so it should: for sheer theatricality as well as gripping story-telling. Director Sally Cookson has created something thrilling from this familiar story steeped in social history, finding strands of early feminism and egalitarianism in Jane's struggles but more importantly presenting her story dramatically, using music, physicality, and humour as well as speech and symbolism. Indeed, though the sparky interactions between Jane and Mr Rochester are great, most of my enjoyment came not from dialogue or plot but from imaginative staging: marvellous coach-rides jogged by the cast, Pilot the dog stealing each scene he bounded into, the haunting flame of mad Bertha's song...  My only reservation was the set which while commendably allowing for 3-dimensional action looks disconcertingly like a massive mismade Ikea flatpack but I loved the indigo costumes and the lighting. The multi-tasking cast of ten ~ including the brilliant musicians ~ are all engaging, with Craig Edwards and Felix Hayes outstanding.  If you're a Brontë fan you've probably already seen it: if not, you've got until the end of the month. 

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