Taking a classic story and turning it into a piece of theatre is difficult at the best of times. Turning it into a ballet however, is even more challenging. This April marked Charlotte Brontë’s 200th birthday and Northern Ballet’s version of Jane Eyre is as fine a tribute as any.
For anyone who does not know the story, the decision to begin the ballet midway through the story may be slightly confusing; however, considering the extensive abridgement, nothing crucial is lost and the adaptation is quite remarkable.
Choreographer Cathy Marston has captured both the dark tragedy of the story and Jane’s fighting spirit. Her choice to make it completely Jane’s story does mean that other characters are left slightly in the background, but then some of the best stage and screen adaptations are guilty of the same.
Of the lesser characters, Rachael Gillespie (Adele) adds charm and mischief to Marston’s jovial choreography for her character, Victoria Sibson is beautifully insane as Bertha and there’s an almost wry humour to Pippa Moore’s Mrs Fairfax. While Helen (Kiara Flavin) did perhaps lack stage time, her pas de deux with young Jane (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) was poignant and beautiful.
Dreda Blow in the title role of Jane is exquisite. Her poise is perfectly elegant and her facial expressions epitomise the Jane Eyre we all know and love. Mr Rochester is a tricky character to portray without words and although Javier Torres is an impeccable dancer, he falls slightly short with some of his expressions. Yet the romantic, almost contemporary dance between him and Jane when they declare their love is stunning – the sentiments clear and the dancing beautiful.
Patrick Kinmonth’s set and costumes help to capture the rugged nature of the landscape and Mr Rochester’s personality, while Philip Feeney’s music brings out the tragedy and romance of the story. His score incorporates music by 19th century German pianist Fanny Mendelssohn, most notably Notturno in G minor, which lends an authentic musicality to the era of the novel.
To see Charlotte Brontë’s beloved story on stage as such a beautiful ballet was an absolute joy.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
JANY EYRE plays at the Richmond Theatre until tonight, 1 June 2016