REVIEW: Jane Eyre at Georgian Theatre Royal

Jane enters at the party.

Richmond’s jewel in the crown is back as the Georgian Theatre Royal hosted it’s first play for 18 months in the form of a stylish and skilful production of Charlotte Bronte’s classic ‘Jane Eyre.’

The wait has been interminable, but the show must go on and thankfully the theatre has used the time available to good effect to spruce itself up.

The improvements have been overdo and with padded seats throughout the auditorium a visit to Britain’s sole remaining historic Georgian theatre is no longer a form of medieval torture as there is now a degree of comfort, in truly unique surroundings.

All in all, it is a hugely pleasurable experience and the touring production of Jane Eyre, directed by Alex Howarth and adapted by Dawn Bush, gave theatre-goers a treat.

The players were superb and although it was a story line well known to the audience, it was acted with vigour and vibrancy from a fluent five-strong cast.

Jane, played by Francesca Anderson, was exactly the Jane we admire. While Mr Rochester (Andrew Lindfield) had all the flawed fallabilities but essential decency which we associate with him.

Jane’s tough life from child to adulthood was seamlessly portrayed and perhaps the beauty of this novel is the fact that it mirrored so much of the writer’s own story. Charlotte Bronte went to a school as severe as that run by Mr Brocklehurst. Two of Charlotte’s sisters died there from tuberculosis (just like Jane’s only friend Helen Burns) and the author was a Yorkshire governess for many years before becoming a writer. In many ways Charlotte Bronte is Jane Eyre.

It is very much a novel about suffering and how to overcome it with strength, dignity and resilience. Not a bad lesson in these difficult times for so many.

The rest of the cast, especially Adele Varens (Francesca Ottley) were nimble and added a lively touch of comedy to proceedings. Its pace was excellent, as at over two hours long it is a play which needs expert handling.

The exchanges between Jane and Mr Rochester were vivid – “I am no bird and no net ensnares me. I am a free human being with an independent will.”

The comedy in Jane Eyre can be underplayed, but this production got it just right and the best laugh of the evening was secured in the line “You men never do consider economy and common sense.”

Isn’t that the truth! Bronte was no women’s libber, at least not in the modern sense, but you get the feeling she felt very restrained by a Victorian world – the book was first published in 1847 – which was thoroughly male-dominated.

Delayed by over a year, this was a terrific production which received a justifiably rousing response from the audience.

The theatre took the wise decision to remove around 30 seats in their recent renovations so you will need to be quick to snap up tickets and this was a hugely deserved sell out.

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