Monday, February 22, 2016

REVIEW: Jane Eyre by Bristol Old Vic and National Theatre of Great Britain's

HKAPA Lyric Theatre, Sunday February 21

Jane Eyre, a co-production of Bristol Old Vic and National Theatre of Great Britain; and part of the 44th Hong Kong Arts Festival is an exquisite and mesmerizing panoramic landscape painting of an intensely touching and personal portrait.



Originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, the novel on which this play is based, was written by English author Charlotte Bronte. The play, directed by Sally Cookson, followed the focal point of the novel and explored the psychological and moral development of the main character from youth to adulthood. The 3 hour and 15 minute play wonderfully portrayed the passage of time, the gradual unfolding of Jane’s moral and spiritual sensibility, by allowing the performance to show a huge amount of stage actions without the temptation to infuse dialogues. In the expanse of time, the play was rhythmically punctuated with scenes that are coloured by heightened bewilderment, intense consciousness and lucid realization.

The set (constructed of wood and composed of raised platforms, a ramp, a few monkey bars and tons of step ladders) by Michael Vale, with costumes by Katie Sykes, were deceivingly simple yet surprisingly right and effective. A good example of how the set worked with the play was that a lot of times when the action was happening up on a ladder, the sense of vulnerability and passion were amplified. Another element that was spot-on and really enhanced the play was the music; and this includes songs that were beautifully performed by Melanie Marshall.

At the center of this immense production is the immeasurable artistry of the cast who were effortlessly convincing in the color-age-gender-blind casting of the production. Madeleine Worrall brought a compelling combination of damage, bravery and compassion to her Jane. Felix Hayes’ Mr. Rochester was grumpy and sarcastic, yet with enough vulnerability to demand love and empathy. Laura Elphinstone had the task of playing the most varied characters of sanctimonious cleric St. John, little French girl Adele and older friend Helen Burns; and she portrayed each persuasively. Craig Edwards also played several roles but was spectacularly (and hilariously) effective as the dog Pilot. 

Rarely does a production demonstrate such clarity with a complex story. This, together with the straightforwardness and without-pretense of the way the narrative unfurl was what made this performance an absolute pleasure.

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