Jane Eyre

Written by Charlotte Bronte
Adapted and Directed by Polly Teale
The Shared Experience Company
Liverpool Playhouse
7th - 11th March 2006

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is a top notch production of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre by the Shared Experience company, adapted and directed by Polly Teale.

It contains accomplished acting - several members of the cast play two or more roles - some wonderful dialogue, a visually stunning set and great music, both live and recorded.

Written in the mid 19th century, the novel still retains a lot of relevance to the present day. Throughout history people are still afraid to express their true feelings to one another, not being oneself, hiding behind a falsehood, presenting a mask to the world.

Such is the case with plain Jane (Monica Dolan), who is sexually repressed, leading to mental torment, after falling in love for the first time, with her employer Mr Rochester (James Clyde). Her orderly world as a prim and proper governess is in danger of being overturned.

Her alter ego - in the shapely form of the sensuous but mad Bertha (Myriam Acharki) - spends most of her time locked in Rochester's attic at Thornfield Hall. She has to be kept locked up for fear of the tumult she would cause to Jane.

On one level we see Jane dressed in a far from flattering grey dress and with a formal hair bun, and at another level view Jamaican-born Bertha, attired in a loose-fitting blood red bodice, hammering at the door of the attic and trying to escape or writhing on the floor in sexual abandon.

Humour is injected into the often neurotic and schizophrenic aspects contained in the production by the performance of Rochester's dog Pilot (played by John Lightbody) - growling and barking at all and sundry, and being particularly fond of Jane, smelling her and caressing her with his nose. Lightbody - who also performed the roles of Brocklehurst, Lord Ingram and St John Rivers - seemed to particularly relish the animal part.

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