Jane Eyre, Albany Theatre, Coventry, to Jan 23.
This new adaptation of the Charlotte Bronte classic has energy and music, while keeping true to the story of a young girl who can’t be beaten for long.
Blackeyed Theatre’s Nick Lane has written this show which contains much original dialogue. A surprise is the insertion of songs, and the talented cast of five also taking turns to play their own haunting incidental music. George Jennings’s score tries to stay faithful to the era the book was written in.
Kelsey Short is excellent as Jane, starting as a bullied 10-year-old orphan, who is shipped off to a charity school where she thrives and becomes a teacher. She has the meek look masking the outspoken and determined young woman, down perfectly.
When she ends up at Thornfield Hall as governess, as soon as she encounters the startling Mr Rochester and he is intrigued by her independence. We sense the chemistry between them, but just who is making those strange noises coming from the attic…
There are some excellent quick costume and character changes from the other four cast members. Ben Warwick as Mr Rochester struts about and takes control of the stage; Eleanor Toms flits between playing the governess’s young silly charge Adele and Blanche Ingram, the femme fatale trying to lure Rochester, with impressive ease.
Camilla Simson is both kind-hearted housekeeper Mrs Fairfax and, with hair hanging loose, the mad woman in the attic - as Bronte in 1846 was able to get away with labelling the first Mrs Rochester. And Oliver Hamilton also gets a chance as pious vicar St John to try to lure Jane away.
The production is also very physical, with the cast at times acting as props to create impressions of new rooms, in a way that gives the story a lot of energy. It’s a night with a classic story, well staged and performed.