Jane Eyre: A 'boldly theatrical' stage adaptation of Bronte’s classic

Feb 25, 2014

Bristol Old Vic's take on the much-loved romance is 'costume drama, but not as we know it', say the critics

Bristol Old Vic
What you need to know

An adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel Jane Eyre has opened at the Old Vic theatre in Bristol. The four-and-a-half hour staging, directed by Sally Cookson, is divided into two parts that can either be seen over two nights or on the same day as a matinee followed by an evening performance.

The story is a coming-of-age tale that follows the eponymous character from her school days through to adulthood, when she finds love with the "charismatic yet vulnerable" Mr Rochester.

The theatrical version, featuring music by Benji Bower, stars Madeleine Worrall as Jane and runs until March 29.

What the critics like

"It is costume drama, but not as we know it," says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. In spite of the age of the source material, the show holds the audience’s attention from start to finish. "Newcomers and Bronte-holics alike will be gripped, amused and moved by a boldly theatrical show," he adds.

Most compelling of all is Bower's music, which travels through an eclectic range of styles, says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph, from folk tunes and hymns to "electronic minimalism".

The simple staging contrasts excellently with the complex emotion the play manages to evoke, says The Guardian's Lyn Gardner. Michael Vale's "design of wooden platforms and metal ladders" offers a stark simplicity, but the play itself has "a beating, passionate heart".

What they don’t like

The length of the production means the show "suffers from an occasional loss of energy in the pacing", Gardner says.

On the whole, the cast does an excellent job bringing the book to life, but some of the actors evidently understand their characters better than others, the Bristol Post says. Felix Hayes's Rochester was "satisfying enough", but the role demands considerable subtlety and "merely shouting a line does not mean that we believe he is actually angry".

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Read more: