Jane Eyre is a powerful and stunning tale of striving to be free

Published: Tuesday 19th September 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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Following a whopping £16 million redevelopment, Hull New Theatre has reopened in true City of Culture style.

The immense changes can be seen before you even enter the building, with an entirely new area to the left of the original foyer. Boasting beautifully designed wooden features, stylish lighting and a significantly larger bar, this is the perfect place to relax with a drink before seeing a world-class performance.

The show running this week is none other than the Charlotte Bronte classic Jane Eyre, a co-production between National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. A timeless tale of life’s struggles and finding one’s true path, it is an utterly stunning piece of theatre.

Directed by Sally Cookson, this adaptation of one of the nation’s favourite novels uses modern dramatic techniques, sound design and movement to bring the tale to life with incredible impact and fluidity. It begins with the birth of a girl, Jane, and follows her through an abusive childhood, a rigorous education that is as oppressive as it is freeing, and the beginning of her employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall.

From here, life becomes complicated and riddled with heartbreak. Without giving too much away, Jane flees the hall and ends up with her clergyman cousin, where things become even more difficult due to the expectations of others. This in turn leads to another move, resulting in an excellent conclusion (we won’t say any more, for those who are unfamiliar with the plot).

Published in 1847 and set a few decades before, Jane Eyre is a story that we can all relate to in some way. The title character is intelligent, disciplined and kind, yet she finds herself in predicaments and situations beyond her control that require extreme measures. And yet despite the trouble and strife, Jane remains an honourable, strong-willed woman who continues to inspire to this day.

As for the design and direction, audiences really are in for a treat. Whilst the costumes and language remain true to the novel, the set is powerful in its boldness and simplicity. Using ladders, platforms, empty wooden picture frames and minimalist props, the team behind the show conveys environments as diverse as a stately manor, a simple abode and an austere school.

The cast are also incredible, with Nadia Clifford as Jane and Tim Delap as Rochester really standing out. However, every member of the ensemble is worthy of praise, complemented by musicians who do a wonderful job of setting the pace and stirring up moments of pure emotion.

Another who deserves a nod is Ben Cutler, who plays Pilot the dog, alongside other roles. This injects laugh out loud humour into numerous scenes and is a joy to watch, without detracting from the serious developments of the play.

You really must go see this show whilst it’s in Hull. Charting one woman’s fight for freedom in the face of poverty, injustice and betrayal, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting piece of theatre.

Jane Eyre runs nightly at 7:15pm until 23 September, along with a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets are priced £15-£32.50 and can be booked by calling 01482 300306, or you can book online.

Photography: BrinkhoffMögenburg

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Published: Tuesday 19th September 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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