Fresh, inventive and completely memorising, Northern Ballet’s adaption of JANE EYRE is an absorbing contemporary ballet which packs an emotional punch
From the Tony award-nominated JANE EYRE (THE MUSICAL) to National Theatre/Bristol Old Vic’s innovative 2015 adaption, JANE EYRE has been reimagined many times but never quite so beautifully as Northern Ballet’s latest touring production.
Based on the 1847 novel by Charlotte Brontë, JANE EYRE tells the story of an orphaned child who grows up knowing little kindness. Sent away to a charitable school by her Aunt, Jane later accepts a position as a Governess at Thornfield, owned by the mysterious and brooding Mr Rochester. In spite of their social differences, an unlikely bond grows between the pair but as their romance develops, it becomes clear that Mr Rochester has a hidden past that threatens to ruin them both.
Fresh, inventive and completely memorising, Northern Ballet’s adaption of JANE EYRE is an absorbing contemporary ballet which packs an emotional punch. Here, acclaimed choreographer Cathy Marston offers a fresh approach to the familiar story, putting the female characters centre stage and giving us a glimpse into their inner psyche by telling the story through their unique style of movement.
Unruly, frenzied and energetic, Ayami Miyata is memorising as the young Jane, her frenetic and chaotic movements, jagged jumps and pummelling fists conveying not only her volcanic temper but also her quickness of mind. In contrast, Minju Kang as her aunt Mrs Reed is prim and proper, with all elegance and pointework, Antoinette Brooks-Daw is full of bounce and energy as Jane’s pupil and Mr Rochester’s ward Adele Varens, while Hannah Bateman’s Bertha Mason is wild, fierce and highly sexualised, adding a level of uncertainty to the performance which keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
Abigail Prudames is a joy to watch in the title role of Jane, her deliberately non-fluid and guarded movements complimented perfectly by Mlindi Kulashe’s dark and brooding Rochester. The chemistry between the two leads is palpable and while their initial pas de deux is tentative and awkward, their style of dance becomes more classical as their relationship grows. The lovers’ closing duet stands out in particular for its blend of discovery, tenderness and ecstasy, which is beautifully articulated through the choreography.
There is excellent support from Philip Feeney’s subtle and evocative score which blends original and 19th-century music to deliver the right amount of romance and drama. Patrick Kinmonth’s set is also deliberately sparse with its muted colours, screens and curtains, leaving Alastair West’s incandescent and atmospheric lighting design to bring the mood and drama.
The only real criticism is Bertha Mason’s torn scarlet gown – which, while visually striking – covers too much of Hannah Bateman’s body, hiding the beauty of movements and at some times, her intricate footwork. With a running time of just two hours, there is also a lot of content for Marston to fit in here and whilst the key plot points are certainly hit, the narrative speeds along at a bracing pace.
That said, these are minor points and there is plenty of like here, with Marston fusing traditional and contemporary ballet to deliver a performance full of freshness and originality. Poor, plain and little Jane Eyre may not be fictions most loveable character but Northern Ballet have certainly found purity, beauty, power and love in Brontë’s novel.
Northern Ballet’s JANE EYRE runs at The Lowry until 9 June 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.