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Jane Eyre: National Theatre

Happy New Year!

Isabel had friends round for New Year last night and when I came down for breakfast this morning, the Christmas Tree was on the kitchen floor like this:


It turns out they’d knocked it over while they were arranging the front room into a sleepover shape.  There is some sort of teenage girl logic (they like things to be organised) to putting it all neatly back together on the floor, when actually, heaps would have been just as easy to get back into the box.

It’s been a few weeks since I took Rhiannon to see the National Theatre broadcast of Jane Eyre, which she is going to study for A-level.  There is going to be an encore broadcast at a few venues around the country, so I thought it might be worth posting about how good it was.

I hadn’t thought too much beforehand about what the production would be like, but as the actors stepped out onto a bare IKEA-esque double level stage, it suddenly occurred to me that these 7 adults were going to try to recreate the wilderness of the windswept North, beginning with a long childhood sequence, and that seemed an intriguingly long way from where we were at.

The actors did an amazing job of using their voices and bodies to do this.  Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the production – more so than the Streetcar broadcast we went to see last year.  Although similar in length, this seemed to go by more quickly, and I enjoyed wondering “I want to see how they are going to do that bit,” as the scenes rolled by.

I was 11 the first time I tackled Jane Eyre and there was an unfortunate consequence to reading it at such a young age (this is very embarrassing.) I was so into the characters that I thought that it would be a good idea to start behaving like an unholy amalgam of Jane Eyre and Helen Burns, and this was very annoying and made me unpopular with my peers.

The good thing about watching this play was that the adult interactions now made sense to me.  As a child, I couldn’t understand why Jane didn’t tell Mr Rochester to get lost.  I still have no patience with the idea of the troubled, brooding type, but now I could clearly see the idea of connection, and of the specialness of needing the person you feel connected with.

Also,  I’d always assumed that I never did finish the book, because I couldn’t remember what happened at the end.   I must have blanked out the scenes where Jane ran away and went to live with the missionaries, because I realised that the scenes were familiar ones as I watched.  Again, I think I blanked them out because they made so little sense to me.  They still trouble me on one level – Jane has been so determined to be self-reliant throughout, would she really head off into the countryside with no plan as to what she would do, to the extent that she nearly dies?  On a psychological level, it does make some sort of sense, maybe signifying how low she feels etc, and it’s also a way of Jane experiencing a contrasting life and realising how important all the things she really needs are.  I just find it unsatisfactory that she becomes more passive towards the end of the book.

If Jane Eyre is on near you, it’s well worth a watch.  The interval backstage piece is also very informative.






    • Happy New Year too! I’m sure the tree will be back, maybe even with some more home made decorations on it. Missing Christmas already.

  1. yasmine rose

    I saw this production at the beginning of December and absolutely loved it!! Wasn’t the voice of the actor who played Mr Rochester’s first wife just stunning?

    • I’d even forgotten about the music – it was brilliant, wasn’t it? Startlingly unexpected, but just right. She was amazing.

      • yasmine rose

        Yeah I found it very unexpected but it added atmosphere and tension, I loved it! I will be writing about it on the blog soon!

  2. Thanks for the review, Denise. It sounds like Jane Eyre was a great production. Happy New Year! I’m happy you stopped by my blog because WP dropped you from my reader at some point.

  3. I was sceptical about this as I really don’t like novels being turned into plays. I think the narrative arc is different for each genre. However, a lot of friends who saw this said how good it was so if anyone locally does an afternoon encore I may set out to see it. I don’t read the book any more because the narrative voice is so strong that I start talking and writing in Jane Eyre tones and it really does sound pretenious.

    • The interval excerpt was illuminating – it sounds pretentious, but I think the process had a lot of integrity to it. There was a lot of improvisation, and the actors described what it was like to try out different words before often finally deciding that the ones in the book had been exactly right. So it wasn’t just an academic exercise of translating words into 3D, it was a dynamic process. I hope you do get to see it. And I don’t feel so bad about my odd behaviour as a child now, reading about your experience with the narrative voice!

  4. The Christmas tree actually looks really good on the floor like that 🙂

    I enjoyed Jane Eyre when I read it as a teenager. I think I probably fell in love with Mr Rochester but then I read Pride and Prejudice and fell in love with Mr Darcy instead 🙂

    • My daughter and her friends all take art GCSE. I think it would have been impossible for them to leave it in a heap without somehow arranging it. I was surprised how easy it was to get back into the box. Very mathematically planned by the company.

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