CHARLOTTE Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre is accurately described as iconic, providing indelible set-piece scenes as it unfolds its story of an unloved orphaned girl and her quest to find love and acceptance.
When Polly Teale adapted the book for the Shared Experience theatre company in 1997, she took a fresh approach, looking at the repressed emotions and expectations of women in Victorian times. She re-imagined Mr Rochester’s “mad wife in the attic”, Bertha, as the other side of Jane’s personality, full of sexual passion and frustrated fury. The production became a theatrical landmark.
Now Tamsin Jacson has chosen it for the spring production at the award-winning Studio Theatre in Ashley Road, Salisbury, with specially commissioned and hugely effective music by Rupert Egerton-Smith and played on a complex set designed by Alistair Faulkner.
This version requires acting that captures not only the story of the characters but their motivation. It is an intensely physical depiction which, in the Studio Theatre production, is enhanced by technicolor back projections and clever effects.
The critical requirement is powerfully intelligent performances from the leading actors, and the company is blessed in Alice Hudson (Jane), Sophie Townsend (Bertha) and Adam Barge (Rochester) leading the versatile 11-strong ensemble. The chemistry between Jane and Rochester is central, and I have never seen it better encapsulated than by these two exceptional young actors.
Notable too are Emilia Fletcher’s Adele, whose balletic movement soars from the stage, and Kristian Hamilton’s late-created Pilot the dog!
Amateur companies sometimes balk at tackling experimental physical theatre, but Tamsin Jacson has proved that it’s a risk worth taking when you have a company as talented as this.
Only a handful of tickets remain for the rest of the run, to Saturday. Get one if you can.