Review: Jane Eyre @ Wales Millennium Centre

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Jane Eyre: an orphan girl wronged by her cruel Aunt Reed and sent to Lowood Institution for being ‘deceitful’. A young lady unsatisfied with her job at the school where her best friend died years prior. A woman who fell in love with her employer at her new job as a governess.

I had the privilege of being able to go and watch the phenomenal production of Jane Eyre at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff last night. Unfortunately, I cannot say I have read the book, but it is definitely high on my list after watching the play. Speaking with other people and press beforehand, I was told that the content was taken right from the book but the music was more contemporary. I believe this due to the slow rendition of Crazy by Gnarls Barkley that surprisingly fit the scene perfectly.

Having grown up with family from Gateshead, I am very familiar with the accent. Young Jane and the people who took the orphan child in were from Gateshead and the actors nailed that accent and the other accents extremely well. You would assume that a small cast would limit what a production could do, but the different accents, tones, personalities, and costumes made it clear when the same actor played a different character. All the actors in this production did exceptionally well and they all played their characters with such talent that I was blown away!

Certain scenes made me tear up, laugh, and smile, but one scene in particular made my entire body arise in goosebumps and sent shivers down my spine – when Jane left Mr Rochester, she said “take me as far as you can with 20 shillings, that’s all I have.” The last few words were said in time with the beat of the music and in dark lighting which reflected Jane’s feelings at that time. The emotion displayed in the last four words astonished me at how good the acting was and left me speechless. Another thing that was presented very well was Jane’s conscience. The other actors in the cast hovered near Jane and spoke in first person about her thoughts. This was really effective in the portrayal of Jane’s thoughts and emotions in an extremely clever way.

The set and staging of the production was fairly basic, primarily consisting of wooden structures and ladders. Although, with such a basic set, the cast’s interaction with the staging was extremely effective. It was always evident when Jane and the other characters were hurrying about, when there were time skips, and when the setting had changed (for example, from Lowood to Thornfield). There were also other wonderfully crafted props that deserve mentioning, such as window panes, fire, smoke, and lights that enhanced the performance.

The lighting anchored the atmosphere of the different scenes. For example, when Jane was locked in the red room, the entire stage became red and created an ominous mood. The music fit the scenes well and also contributed to the atmosphere; it also has an Irish folk music feel to it.

The play began and ended with the birth of a young child, a baby girl. The repeated explanation of “it’s a girl” both at the beginning and end was very powerful. After watching Jane’s life, it is amazing that she had her happy ending and I know she will not let her baby go through the horror she did.

“There are no evil people, just evil deeds.” – Helen Burns, Jane Eyre

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