Brought to us by the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic, this production of Jane Eyre – based on the book by Charlotte Brontë – is a visual delight.
The stark set has a band tucked into a maze of ladders and ramps which are used effectively to change setting by merely taking different routes through them.
Brilliantly, the band are as much part of the action as the actors. When not playing, they are avidly involved watching in tight synchronicity, reacting to the story, and also moonlight as bearded young girls in the school Jane is sent to.
The real star of the show is multi-role, as the company effortlessly flits from one character set to the next, changing on set, and off, creating the complex cast of characters in a very believable manner, even down to the fully-grown man playing a vigorous puppy.
There were more than a few first night teething issues as the cast abruptly left the stage and the band was ushered off by a stage manager. The screen came down and we were left wondering for 10 or so minutes about the cause of the problem – which was never divulged – but certainly indulged by an audience who, in for a three-hour haul, made a judicious use of the bathrooms.
The second act didn’t grab as much as the first, and it’s there the realisation came that the emotional resonance wasn’t there.
As beautiful and well-produced as the show is, Jane Eyre’s, Rochester’s and Bertha’s fates were of less interest than whether the set would catch alight in the flames.