Leeds Grand Theatre
THERE have been so many theatrical adaptations of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre that finding a truly original interpretation is no easy task.
Thus it proves with Cathy Marston’s dance theatre production for Northern Ballet, nominated for the South Bank Sky Arts Dance Award last year, which uneasily balances the traditional with the feminist.
Jane Eyre, represented at different ages by Dreda Blow and Antoinette Brooks-Daw, is shown as an independent spirit from the start. With fists clenched and head bowed, she stoically rebels against the cruelties inflicted on her by her aunt Mrs Read and the rigours of Lowood School.
Surrounded by a confusing band of inner demons, who seem to represent the many men who bar her way in life, her biggest battle is with Edward Rochester (Javier Torres). The casual way in which he uses his leg to block her exit from a room, which will speak to the #MeToo generation, helps explain why she steps away from both him and her demons at the production’s close.
Such bold assertiveness is sadly lacking in the portrayal of Bertha Mason (Victoria Sibson) — the cliche “mad” woman with her wild and uninhibited movements — and in the presence of the stock-in-trade comedic character, doddery housekeeper Mrs Fairfax (Pippa Moore).
Philip Feeney's score, incorporating elements of Fanny Mendelssohn’s chamber music played by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, lacks vigour. It would seem more appropriate for a 1930s film version than for Patrick Kinmonth’s decluttered contemporary set design, with grey backdrops creating a hybrid of stone masonry and moorland.
That lack of spark in the music, along with the stereotyped secondary characters, creates a production that, despite some strong reinterpretations elsewhere, undermines the actions of its feisty protagonist.
Runs in Leeds until March 14, then tours until June 9, box office: northernballet.com
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