Behind the scenes at rehearsals for Jane Eyre

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to attend a rehearsal for one of the National Theatre’s latest productions? I had the opportunity to do just that with the National Theatre and Bristol’s Old Vic co-production of Jane Eyre.

Rehearsals had only been underway for 3 weeks, but my goodness the power and the magnitude of the piece could already be powerfully felt.

We heard how this book by Charlotte Brontë is as relevant today as it always has been. With 65 million girls and young women out of education throughout the world, Jane Eyre is more and more important to a new audience today.

Director Sally Cookson’s energetic and imaginative new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece Jayne Eyre will embark on its UK tour from April through to September. It arrives in Southampton 9-13th May book tickets HERE.

Nadia Clifford is Jane Eyre And Tim Delap is Rochester: Photo Credit Alex Rumford

Nadia Clifford is Jane Eyre And Tim Delap is Rochester: Photo Credit Alex Rumford

Why now?

Nadia Clifford takes the central role of Jane with Tim Delap as Rochester. But why now for this tour? Well, notably 2017 marks the 170th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Eyre – a significant time to be touring Charlotte Brontë’s classic and much-loved story. The highly acclaimed co-production between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic opens at The Lowry in Salford on 8th April before continuing its tour.

Cookson has just completed a successful run of Peter Pan devised by the original company and was asked what she wanted to do next. Without hesitation or thinking she blurted out Jane Eyre knowing that it was something she has always wanted to work on. Not really knowing why she had this need to produce Eyre, Cookson said that many people cite this as being their favourite literary work and feels the same way.

The book is still relevant today, Cookson told us her first introduction to it was in her 20’s and in the form of Orson Welles film. She was struck by the music and images. Reading it years later was when it’s meaning and force really hit home. The clarion cry of the strength of the leading character and the weight of all its characters.

The Jane Eyre Cast Photo Credit Alex Rumford

The Jane Eyre Cast Photo Credit Alex Rumford

The vision?

Cookson went on to explain her vision for this production. Originally it’s was to be staged in two parts and Cookson was most insistent on that. However soon realised that she wanted the life story to be told and not the love story. As a result realising that it would be more potent if told in just the one part, she set about creating the production we will see on this tour. Which is why this production is so unbelievably powerful already. Even from the small excerpts I saw I could feel the epical proportions of this piece.

A life story not a love story!

Not wanting bulky staging with heavy Victorian costumes, a design was devised to tell this life story differently. The set is effectively an obstacle course symbolic of Eyre’s struggles throughout her life. Orphaned at an early age Eyre struggled to receive opportunities that most took for granted. This is a very physical play and we heard how the actors have to take care of themselves. Injuries can and do arise as a result safety is paramount but medical assistance is always on hand.

Physical strength and fitness is essential, I was impressed to hear that whilst it centres around one character this is very much an ensemble piece. We hear how they meet each morning, eat and spend time together. It is so physical, trust is a key factor and a tight cast who go on the whole journey together is pivotal to its nature. As Eyre goes through life she has to remove herself from situations that made her feel threatened or vulnerable. We not only see her struggles and journey through life we feel them as she moves through the obstacles put in her way as she pulls herself through the set. The musicians and singing adds to the potency of this piece, making it captivating and mesmerising to watch.

In summary

Finally I’m sure by now you will be hearing loud and clear that this is a production that is very different from the normal Jane Eyre’s we have seen before. It’s innovative and ingenious, while I could go on,  I implore you to take it in when it comes to a theatre near you check out the tour HERE!

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