Jane Eyre is as inspirational and as appropriate as ever and she’s in Milton Keynes until Saturday.
Have you ever read Jane Eyre? The book by Charlotte Brontë?
Like me, perhaps you haven’t, but you know the story from one of the half dozen or more adaptations that have made their way onto the big and small screen. (My personal favourite is the 1997 TV movie starring Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds).
But this week, the story is being performed on stage at Milton Keynes Theatre. A collaboration between The National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic and I was invited along to watch.
The story follows the young life of Jane Eyre, a restless and spirited orphan as she manoeuvres through the life that has been laid at her feet. She proves that you can be both self-assured and independent without being vicious or arrogant.
The story holds suspense and even feels like a gothic ghost story in parts. With the red-room, which is feared, for it is where her uncle died, talks of hell with Mr Brocklehurst and even a monster in the night at Thornfield Hall.
The set is basic, if you take it on face value, but then appearances can deceive. Think of plain Jane, although she is anything, but. The set, like her, is not all that plain. A mass of ladders, various heights, shapes and angles. The set looked like the very brain it was showcasing. The characters, particularly Jane, had so many to climb and descend throughout the performance. The ladders symbolising the struggles, lessons and torments that Jane faced inwardly as she struggled to find her place outwardly in the world. To see someone catch their breath at the top of a ladder both physically, mentally and in the deep context of the story was emotional. Witnessing someone’s struggles, never makes for comfortable viewing but you couldn’t look away. It didn’t matter there was no extravagant set dressings, costumes, backdrops. Let’s face it, in the story of Jane Eyre, the locations and even the characters, like Adele and Mrs. Fairfax, the houses and school in where Jane resides, they are secondary. I’m not taking away their meaning to Jane, but to us getting a glimpse into Jane Eyre, they are. Think about our hardest lessons in life, it is never the physical things that teach us or hurt us the most. It’s the emotions, the actions and how our mind interprets them. We are here to watch that journey of Jane discovering, and that alone isn’t a period drama. So, this isn’t a piece of theatre for the fans of costume drama to fawn over the pomp and scandal of the past. Or will it conjure up the grandest stately homes on that stage.
What you do get treated to is an imaginative adaptation of the struggles of being a woman in the mid 19th century, a woman who isn’t afraid to question anything. With all the brutal hiccups, that life can throw at her, her resolve and heart is strong. And yet, her story isn’t stuck in the 1800s. You could take that Jane, pluck her right out of the past and drop her into the world of today and her story would still stand strong, like her.
We could all do with the inner courage to question everything, to not settle for anything we feel uncomfortable with.
I wish I could have more of Jane Eyre about me. I wish I had the brutal but kind honesty to say how I feel without fear of the reaction. For my reactions wouldn’t cost me food, a bed, the clothes on my back or my job…or would they?
All this without mentioning the amazing live band and vocals that you are treated to in the performance. From an ad-lib rehearsal studio feel, to popular music reinvented just for Jane Eyre. I won’t spoil what tracks you will hear, go hear for yourself and most of all, remember to pick your jaw up off the floor before leaving. There’s one member of the cast who has a voice capable of stopping the world on its axis.
Fancy some serious inspiration? Better be quick. Pick up your proverbial petticoats, grab someone you don’t mind clinging to when you’re scared and get yourself to Milton Keynes Theatre. Jane Eyre is there until Saturday 15th July.
Thanks for inviting me MK Theatre. I LOVED IT!