Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart!
These are the words that irrevocably established Jane Eyre as an incredibly powerful character, in the surroundings of a stunning plot. Polly Teale’s stage adaption certainly provides the opportunity for a fresh breath of life into this striking story of love, betrayal and self-discovery.
Indeed, Red Room Productions’ take on the play promises to deliver: Fleeting scenes from a new take on the well-known saga of Jane Eyre livened up the Moser Theatre last Saturday. The actual production will open in LMH’s Simpkins Lee Theatre, where the production team has big plans for a prominent presence of the red room throughout, set to leave the audience haunted.
The success of the play can be seen in a few simple and creative decisions. The multi-layered staging creates an intriguing set, allowing for multiple scenes to enthuse the audience simultaneously. Particularly effective is the decision to have Bertha Mason (Joanne Murray) – the original ‘mad woman in the attic’ – on stage throughout, reacting to, and interacting with, Jane Eyre’s (Chloe Gale) every movement and emotion. It’s fascinating to see this production try to assimilate Bertha Mason into Jane Eyre’s character as her play-mate, alter-ego, and sinister spectator. It will be up to the opening night to prove whether this can truly be pulled off without leaving the audience confused and unable to follow the ploy that (in theory) really brings an interesting take on the psychology of Jane Eyre.
The scenes that I saw show the casting to be spot on. In particular, Murray’s Bertha Mason reaches just the perfect balance between terrifying madness and touching helplessness. Gale’s Jane is also impressive, the actress truly brings out the haunting nature of Brontё’s beautifully crafted character, all the time preserving the balance between suppressed individual and a passionate young woman. The development of Jane’s character is eased along the way by a group of committed and powerful group of secondary characters. This production’s brave decision to have several actors double up in two different roles seems to have paid off. In particular, Alex Stutt’s performance as John Reed and later St John Rivers is a testament to his skill in managing to so successfully bring two entirely different personas vividly to life.
So, for anyone who wants to see a fresh take on a classic, in conjunction with some great acting and brave staging decisions, the message is obvious: go see Jane Eyre and expect to be left breathless.
Jane Eyre plays at the Simpkins Lee Theatre (LMH) until Saturday.
PHOTOS/ Olivia Gillman and Vicki Lampard