Charlotte Bronte’s supercharged Gothic tale of desire and pent up frustration has been staged many times. This new version – a collaboration with the Bristol Old Vic brings an over-long version that nevertheless is full of invention and fresh perspectives.
Devised by the company and directed by Sally Cookson, it’s presented on a scaffold set of ramps and lots of ladders , which at times are a challenge for the actors to negotiate.
Lots of songs have been added , which certainly stretch out the time, and as with the oddly picked Noel Coward song Mad About The Boy, seem to jar with the period nature of the staging . That said, the singing , by Melanie Marshall, is moody , dark and lamenting.
Madeleine Worrall as Jane is onstage virtually the whole 3 hours and effects the change from feisty child to mature teacher and governess with convincing emotional force. She is the powerhouse in this production , matched only by Felix Hayes as a brooding Rochester , virile, moody and magnificent. Oh and by a wonderful cameo by Craig Edwards as Rochester’s dog Pilot . He’s a physical and barking delight.
The early scenes at the institution for abandoned girls did put me in mind of Annie without laughs but the ensemble are impeccable in their many roles of either sex and they help to pick up the pace of the evening when it seems to lag.
To be honest a good 20 minutes could be cut with no detriment to the story or character development and the beginning of the 2nd half particularly has a series of scenes almost totally redundant.
That said it’s a gripping evening and a fair representation of a classic novel .
If you watch don’t forget to consider making a donation at national theatre.org.uk .
It’s available on YouTube till Thursday 16 April.
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