I’m not sure what the technical term is for this production of Jane Eyre. Some people describe it as physical theatre. For me, I felt that same spark of excitement that I had in the playground as a child.
“You be the dog. This is our house, the door is here. The wall is the car, so when I sit there I’m actually driving”.
As 7 year olds at school we created whole worlds in the space of a lunch break and this is what Sally Cookson has done with Jane Eyre at the Lyttleton Theatre.

The set consists of a wood and iron structure that could have been
lifted from an adventure playground and the cast deftly climb,
scramble and hang from it to recreate Lowood School, Thornfield and the dreaded Red Room at Gateshead Hall.

Jane Eyre Lowood
Photo by Simon Annand

From the moment the play opens with Jane’s father holding her as a baby, but with the older Jane also standing on the stage projecting the baby’s cries you know that this is not traditional theatre. Far from having the book played out in front of you complete with period
costumes and replicas of grand houses, you’re given the cast and their words and invited to imagine the world around them.

It may sound too conceptual for some and there is always an element of risk that some audiences may not want to exercise their
imagination to such a degree, however, this production really works.

The cast are so talented that when Craig Edwards bounds around the stage, whipping his leg with a length of cord as his tail, he IS Rochester’s dog, Pilot. He believes he is the dog and so do you,
laughing at him offering up his tummy to be stroked.

Madeleine Worrall as Jane is smart, determined and not to be pitied. The relationship between her and Rochester, played by Felix Hayes, is one of the most touching and believable romances I have seen on stage, and their reunion after the fire at Thornfield brought a lump to my throat.

Jane Eyre Window Image
Photo by Alastair Muir

Devised by the company, without a script, it’s hard to imagine just how much work has gone into the production. A jazz ensemble is on stage throughout and provide a striking soundtrack from within the story, and it’s a stroke of genius when Melanie Marshall sings Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” as Bertha Mason.

This performance will leave you marvelling at how the cast build scenes for our enjoyment. Each holding a frame, they come together to form a window for Jane to throw open, lurk behind her on stage
voicing the thoughts in her head and upon arrival in Thornfield she is greeted by a clutch of lamps, held up as the flames of a friendly fire in her bedroom.

It’s clever, energetic, engaging and unique and within 15 minutes of the show I was immersed in the story and the magic of the
imagination.