I like the story of Jane Eyre. I like it a lot. When I was around, ooh, probably about ten-twlevish I first read our abridged version of Jane Eyre and there began my love of the story. I watched the BBC mini series (1983) that my grandma owned. I like the moodiness and the emotions of Jane Eyre because while it is, yes, a rather sad story throughout, it has a nice ending and I love the character of Jane herself.
Well thanks to the best roommate ever and her generous parents my roommate Desi and I got to go to see the opening night of Manitoba Theatre Centre’s production of “Jane Eyre” this evening.
**Jane Eyre Plot spoilers and MTC Production fo Jane Eyre spoilers**
(consider yourself well-warned…)
It was so good! They had a cast of 8 including the child who played Adele, so 7 adults played all the roles. The actors for “Jane” and “Rochester” only played the one role (I say only, but they’re pretty much continually on stage so only doesn’t really seem to give enough credit…) while the other five played 6-9 roles each, playing every other role in the play. It was amazing. Girls played guys (example, the surgeon who comes to treat Mason after he’s attacked was played by one of the women) and guys played girls (one of the Lowood teachers was a man and the postmistress when Jane is advertising for a position was a man). It was amusing, it wasn’t really hidden at all, but the roles were also all well done. Other than the postmistress none of the roles were going for laughs, I’m sure it was just timing backstage with costumes etc, that a person of the opposite gender was needed to play those roles and it was done really well.
It was very minimal set-wise. Scaffolding across the backstage to serve at the battlements of Thornfield, or an upstairs hall or balcony. Beneath the scafolding served as a hallway or a garden walk. Chairs, tables, beds, potted plants were rolled in and out on wheels (by the actors themselves, often during the scene) and were kept to a minimum. A tea tray was carried in and out quite often and I couldn’t decide if “Rochester” was smoking a real cigarette or an electric one in some scenes. Candles, lanterns, sewing, books, billiard cues were carried about when needed but there were very few “main” or “big” props. The backdrop was mostly kept to solid black or grey, sometimes changing to blue or sunset colours depending on the scene.
Because of the minimal props however, things like carriages (driving to Lowood school) or horses (Mr Rochester’s horse falling in the lane) become difficult to portray. The carriage was created by standard kitchen chairs (in that era’s build though) that the actors would sit down in and then rise and carry while doing a bit of a gallop-hop across the stage. This caused much laughter in the audience, I wonder if they expected it to be seen as so funny (like people laughed to the point where I wonder if they’ll try to find a way to do it differently…). “Mr Rochester’s” horse, however, was not a kitchen chair. He sat on the shoulders of the two other male actors and they were the horse. It was hilarious, I’m sure they knew it would be hilarious and in the one scene that it was needed for, it somehow fit in a way that the “carriage” didn’t fit with the tone of it’s scene.
They adapted it in a very narrative style, the cast would be narrating their scenes in character. “Jane” would say something like, (regarding schoolmaster “Mr Brocklehurst”) “What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large, prominent teeth!” (a direct quote from the book use in the play I might add) while in front of him and then she will continue in regular dialogue with “Mr Brocklehurst”. It was fascinating seeing them do it, going back and forth throughout a scene narrating and dialoging but in character and acting all along.
We were in row three, which in a play with big sets and busy scenes would have been very difficult as its very close to the stage, but in a play such as this one, with such minimalism, it was perfect. We could see facial expressions and every last detail. A certain flounce in someone’s walk, the tremor of a lip, the tears in “Jane’s” eyes as she walks away from “Mr Rochester” after the explanation for the spoiled wedding. It was perfect. I’m so glad we had those seats! (Also, Des is using an older pair of glasses until her other ones are fixed so being closer made it easier to see in general! ;D)
The acting was great, “Jane” was perfect, tiny and spirited. “Rochester” was not (traditionally) handsome (I mean, come on he’s the hero, he has to look alright), he was very tall and broad and made the actress for “Jane” look even tinier! She must have been barely above 5′ and I’m sure he was well over 6′. The other five in the cast were amazing! Chameleons the lot of them, slipping from role to role in such a way that you’d assume they had a different person for each role if you didn’t read the program. Adele was adorable, but I did find it very difficult to hear her two main lines… One was something about strawberries but thats all I caught. I think the other was something about the tree getting spilt in the storm… not quite sure. I’m not sure I’d entirely blame that on the actress though, she’s skipping down a path through one line which makes delivering the line harder and during the other there are rain and storm sound effects happening at the same time. It could have also been her mike, or it could have been her, who knows! She was a cute Adele though.
Overall I loved it lots! The people beside us seemed to leave during intermission so I guess it wasn’t a unanimous hit but I thought it was a very good adaption, well done, true to the story. Because of the narration style they didn’t need a lot of “filler-dialogue” such as Jane-Adele classes, The Rivers-Jane getting-to-know-one-another-chats, and because that wasn’t there they could cover the vast majority of the plot. The two things that I would have liked were more of Lowood (but I understand that with such a small cast, girls-only school scenes would have been difficult to do) and the scene at the party in which Mr Rochester dresses up as a gypsy and tells people’s fortunes. I love that scene and it seems its rarely included in adaptions. I suppose its obviously not crucial, but I like it…
Overall, very good. Would certainly go see it again (anyone want to buy me some tickets?!) and would recommend it to others.
I love going to the theatre =)
(While waiting for a ride we saw some of the cast members come upstairs and I flailed inwardly and tried not to creeper-stare from a distance. I totally creeper-stared from a distance. I was to intimidated to actually go up and talk to them though… We saw them though!)
Talk to you tomorrow!
I call this, 2014: Shameless indoor sunglass-wearing selfie in a theatre