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Attic broods over fresh take on a Bronte classic

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

By Jane Eyre

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REVIEW

Cygnet Theatre, Exeter

The locked attic broods over this enthralling production of Charlotte Bronte's story.

Taken at pace with multiple locations delineated by lighting, Polly Teale's adaptation foregrounds the psychological aspect of Bronte's gothic tale, the locked room both haven for Jane's dreams and passion, and secure incarceration for the mad woman Bertha.

Director Alistair Ganley uses his ensemble in a host of minor characters that lighten the intensity, maintaining atmosphere yet sacrificing none of the story's dramatic power.

In the dual and intertwined roles of Jane and Bertha, Rosie Louden and Jessamy James, (alternating at separate performances), maintain character and focus with admirable concentration.

Poor and plain in her neat grey dress, Jane is both strong-willed and outspoken, but her demeanour hides passion and longing for fulfilment.

Seemingly observant and aware, high in the attic room a tormented Bertha, restrained by the intimidating Grace Poole (Kaja Pecnik), wrestles with demons.

With fluid scene changes and atmospheric lighting, the story progresses, satisfyingly, from Jane's fateful inauspicious meeting with the unpredictable darkly saturnine Rochester (admirably played by Jason Phelps) to a dramatic wedding, while the disastrous fire is ingeniously played.

Both characters have credible depth, finding new facets as their relationship grows; Jane poised and sincere, Rochester possessed and agonised.

Yet his initial offer of marriage "Poor, obscure and plain as you are Jane, will you accept me as your husband?" seems unlikely to unlock Jane's inner passion.

Playing a host of diverse characters the ensemble includes Joe Thurston (an amusing and touching Pilot the dog) and Helen Kirk who pirouettes prettily as Adele with professional actors Rosalind Williams and Christopher Flynn.

ANNE BROOM

Jane Eyre runs at the Cygnet Theatre, Exeter until tomorrow and from January 7-11.

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