Jane Eyre at Leeds Grand Theatre – another try-hard attempt at recreating a classic
Jane Eyre is undoubtedly one of the greatest stories in existence. Packed with passion and compelling characters, the plot is full of twists and turns and intriguing complications. My point being: it’s pretty hard to mess it up.
A bizarre combination of accents, a strange eerie set, random singing (Mad About The Boy, anyone?), pretty stiff acting throughout and a man flailing around onstage pretending to be a dog might just do the trick.
The theatre-in-education-style first scene leaves a sinking feeling in my stomach, and unfortunately this theme continues. Fair enough, using randomly appearing window frames to symbolise Jane’s desperation for freedom is just about understandable, but a whole chorus of bearded men in little girl’s dresses taking part in a synchronised movement routine doesn’t scream the buzzwords “creative”, “artwork”, and “original” to me: it seems awfully pointless.
Nadia Clifford as Jane Eyre is pretty unlikeable to me, which doesn’t help the show’s case. I’m not really bothered if she succeeds in her mission for freedom and intellectual stimulation. Frankly, I’m not sure what Rochester would see in her. Tim Delap as the charmingly complicated Rochester plays the role well: he is peculiar yet likeable. The rest of the cast mainly play several roles, making their parts relatively forgettable.
This is quirky drama at its best, an “imaginative retelling” of a story that would stand perfectly well left alone and played in a more straight-forward manner, where symbolism isn’t thrust in our faces. The cast both overact and underact in turn, a strange direction by Sally Cookson that distracts rather than adds to the production. One of the only captivating things about this show, for me, is the gorgeous story of Jane Eyre – and this, at least, makes the actual story worth watching.
For fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I expect you would probably enjoy this show a great deal more than I did. For musical-loving Leeds Grand Theatre audiences, who expect dazzling showtunes and exciting portrayals of classic productions, this show may come as a disappointment.