The storytelling on offer here is ambitious. Fortunately the programme synopsis is detailed; however, Cathy Marston’s work might just benefit from being less faithful to the complex original text that traces Jane's life from miserable childhood with awful relatives to self-contained adulthood. At times Marston’s choreography feels bogged down in the clunky detail and unnecessary characters that would not be missed for dramatic purposes.
Marston tells this fast moving and nuanced tale with deep coherence, and takes great care in the detail of each character’s choreography. There are several memorable motifs such as Jane's clenched fists, Rochester’s outstretched foot on denying her exit, housekeeper Mrs Fairfax’s unstable tittering about the stage. Patrick Kinmonth’s muted colour palette for both set and costumes reflects the repression and entrapment Jane feels in the different environments she is confronted with.
Marston’s division of Young Jane and Adult Jane makes good use of Northern Ballet’s talented cast and takes the heroine’s character from her defensive and vulnerable early years, to her more assertive but still embattled adulthood. Her journey is interspersed with appearances from the D-Men, a haunting all-male chorus used to symbolise Jane’s fears and insecurities. They invade the stage, terrorising her, before dissolving away.
In the first cast, Antoinette Brooks-Daw is visibly a fragile and weak figure as child Jane in her flat ballet shoes and orphan’s rags, whose bowed head seems to indicate resignation to the rigidity of her life. However, it is Dreda Blow’s compelling adult Jane who evolves into the strong and defiant heroine associated with Charlotte Brontë’s novel.
The ballet truly hits its stride in the slow burning first pas de deux between Blow and Javier Torres’ Rochester. Torres’ Rochester is a brooding and untouchable figure with an undeniable aura, while Blow uses her long limbs well, conveying a desperation to stay in control of herself.
The contrast in the choreography between Blow’s slow and deliberate movements and Rochester’s wild and unpredictable wife, Bertha Mason (Victoria Sibson) is another strength of Marston’s work. Striking in red, she stands out in Kilmonth’s muted setting. Like a whirlwind, she brings chaos and together with Torres creates the ballet’s most memorable image as she flails wildly amongst the flames as the Rochester home of Thornfield burns to the ground.
Joseph Taylor as Rochester and Mariana Rodrigues as Bertha Mason in Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre, photo Emma Kauldhar
Blow’s Jane grows in poise and emotional intelligence in Act Two after Rochester’s unexpected marriage proposal. The final moments where she walks away from him and towards the front of the stage, convey a message of empowerment, rather than the romantic happy ending one might predict.
Marston’s Jane Eyre is intelligently observed as Jane’s attempts to balance moral integrity with passion are done with unexpected clarity. Pure ballet lovers may find the narrative a little demanding but fans of Brontë's novel will appreciate Marston’s faithfulness to the original story.
Jane Eyre is danced to an original score by Philip Feeney, a long-term Northern Ballet collaborator, and played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia.
|What||Northern Ballet, Jane Eyre Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
15 May 18 – 19 May 18, 19:30 Thu & Sat mats 14:30 Dur.: 2 hours 15 mins incl one interval
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Well website|