THE National Theatre production of Jane Eyre, at The Lowry, Salford, is a sensational and artistic, but alternative view on the classic text.
The play, adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s 19th century novel, is a glimpse into the life of the unloved and psychologically suffering Yorkshire orphan.
Director, Sally Cookson’s intelligent take on the vibrant character explores her mental health, depicting Jane white in innocence and sometimes depressed. Cookson shows audiences the inner workings of her mind by using other cast members to express her thought process, unveiling perennial internal conflicts.
Nadia Clifford is a colourful and thought-provoking Jane, encapsulating every spirit of the revolutionary woman, archetypal of 19th century literature. She plays her as a child and adult, a theatrical quirk made effective through costume.
Although keeping true to the Victorian tradition of female heroism, the performance is typically 21st century in its discussion of mental health, but also its production, with minimal staging and props, and using a trio of musicians with an array of instruments, including drum kit, piano, double bass, and percussion.
The music fills out the production, characterising the psychological energy of the girl whose mind the audience inhabits. It is the vehicle of Eyre’s journey from farm-life to school, before becoming a governess at Thornfield House, where she meets the mysterious Edward Rochester.
The staging is a simple wooden structure embodying all the precariousness of the troubled characters it carries, set with a backdrop of asylum-like white curtains at the front and sides of the stage, used with lighting to reflect the moods and emotions of Jane as she journeys towards life as a young woman.
It is almost a pathetic fallacy machine, necessitating explorations into the gothic, with shifts from light to dark, enabling Eyre’s situation and psyche to resonate with her environment.
The play also captures the light with splashes of comedic colour; extracted best through the constant musical backdrop, and Victorian gentleman, Tim Delap's Rochester’s scripted jolts of modern ironic humour, flirting with 21st century expletive vernacular.
He is a well delivered character of bright sparks, but dark persona, deepening the play’s embodiment of depression and delusion in the secrets of his house. “We are all burdened by faults in this world, Jane.”
The production is 21st century triumph of a Victorian classic, almost cinematic in delivery, but loyal to its traditions. Highlighting some of the best evidence of 19th century literary dexterity, this beautiful psychological gaze into Victorian Yorkshire is something to behold.
Oh, and they pulled off the accents too.