‘BLACKEYED Theatre’ is a new company to me, but one I shall certainly be watching out for in the future if this brand new production of Jane Eyre premiering at Malvern is the usual standard of their work.
There have many incarnations of this Charlotte Bronte feminist classic including most recently, the high energy, ‘Kneeehigh’ version.
This was, as with all Kneehigh productions, a highly-enjoyable fusion of theatre and circus.
‘Blackeyed’ offer a more sedate, retro-repertory approach. They are seemingly a touring company traditional in playing style, and costume. Victoria Spearing’s set is the exception to tradition however as there are no flying cloths or moving set pieces but a three dimensional labyrinth comprising a piano, wooden beams, ropes, steps and curtains, which cleverly become rooms, buildings and coaches.
There has been an obvious close collaboration twixt Charlotte Bronte adapter Nick Lane and director Adrian McDougall as script and production work in perfect harmony.
As to the actors – Kelsey Short is just perfect as the heroine, Jane Eyre – she narrates her story as well as acting it and takes us along with her in an inclusive performance as we share her pain, her joy and most importantly her reasoning. She makes us concur with which of life’s paths she chooses to follow next and why.
Ben Warwick plays Bronte’s classic macho man Edward Rochester with panache and just the right amount of swagger. Warwick and Short make a believable and natural romantic duo.
Camilla Simson, Eleanor Toms and Oliver Hamilton perform a wide range of characters between them, completing this talented company of five – all of who also take turns on the piano and play fiddles and other instruments to perform composer George Jennings haunting underpinning score.
This is a refreshing and honest adaptation of a classic tale of which I am sure the famous novelist would most definitely approve.
It’s a highly recommended splendid night out – catch it if you can this week at Malvern and if not then somewhere on its national tour for the next few months.
Jane Eyre runs at Malvern Theatres until Sunday, September 29.
Click here for times, tickets and more information.
Review by Euan Rose.