Choreographed by Cathy Marston
Jane Eyre is originally a novel written by Charlotte Bronte during the 1800’s. It sees heroine Jane living with her uncle after the death of her parents, where she is poorly treated and locked in the ‘red room’ as a punishment.She is then moved to Lowood Institution where she and her peers are worked hard, and her confidant Helen ends up dying. Eventually she leaves for Thornfield Hall where she teaches a young woman, and falls for the charms of the handsome Mr Rochester. They fall in love and are due to marry, but Jane discovers he is already married. She leaves him, but returns some time later to find there has been a fire in which he has been blinded. They once again become a couple and she bears him a child.
The ballet opened with a misty veil across the stage, on what was possibly a haunted moor – which reminded me of Wuthering Heights. I was surprised to see so many dancers on the stage so early on, but enjoyed the modern feel of the choreography. It was refreshing to see a group of males providing such a strong undercurrent, which was a theme throughout the performance. There is a dark and disturbing feel to the opening scene, with an air of menace and malicious intent. As someone a little rusty on the works of Bronte I did take a little while to get into it, but the penny soon dropped. Potentially having a younger Jane and older Jane was slightly confusing as I was worried I had misunderstood the casting, but it had been a long week!
Humour was very cleverly interspersed throughout the performance – no easy task without words! Jane’s young pupil added a light hearted dimension to the piece, counterbalancing the turmoil and grief never far from Jane’s side. Mr Rochester (Javier Torres) was definitely my favourite character, mainly because he exuded a tantalising combination of cockiness, disdain and sexual promise. I loved the dismissive attitude he projected to Jane (Dreda Blow), keeping her at arms length yet dangling with desire. The repetitive leg movement magnetically drawing her to him will certainly always stay with me. Another character to be mentioned is Blanche Ingram – we’ve all seen women like that on a saturday night! The hand gestures and looks of pure disgust were impeccably timed and funny, and I would have liked this played on more as the tension between her and Jane built. The crazy wife Bertha Mason was utterly believable, and her violent choreography had me gripped. Her red dress indicated her fiery (literally) nature beautifully, and contrasted against Jane’s virginal white dress and demure demeanor on her wedding day.
As the performance progressed the group dances lessened and the audience were treated to more solo dances, showing a more traditional approach to the genre. The opening scene was returned to later on in the play as we were re-introduced to St John, which helped clarify the context although I found him an unnecessary edition given his paltry role. The final scene showed the change in Mr Rochester – the transfer of power to Jane as she returns to him. I noted particularly the dance moves showing her taking the lead and guiding her blinded love into her arms.I think the traditional ballet goer may find the amount of contemporary dance a little outside their comfort zone, but I relished the use of props and strong young men 😉 In conclusion, a ballsy, brave evening out that I enjoyed immensely.