Fire! Jane Eyre (Nelle Lee) and Edward Rochester (Anthony Standish) douse the flames.
Nelle Lee and Anthony Standish. Photos by David Fell
By Charlotte Bronte
Adapted and created by shake&stir
Directed by Michael Futcher
Presented by shake&stir and QPAC
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: October 18-November 9. Duration: two hours 45 minutes with interval. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or phone 136 246.
If it’s a shake&stir production I expect it to be good – and different. It is always a hot ticket during a run – but never quite as hot as this one. If you want to see Edward Rochester’s Thornfield Hall burnt down on stage with real flames that threw heat ten rows back, grab a ticket now. Talk about the burning of Atlanta!
I have never seen such realism on stage. Top marks to director Michael Futcher.
Jane Eyre has been a best selleing novel for more than 170 years and a popular vehicle for multi-character film costume drama since the medium was created. So I was surprised to see that there was just a cast of four to portray a novel filled with so many different characters and locations.
But what a cast: Nelle Lee as the constant presence of Jane Eyre, Helen Howard, Anthony Standish and musician/actor Sarah McLeod, who between them played a bewildering array of characters, all of which had their own personality. It was terrific acting all round.
Nelle took the orphaned Jane from the age of ten through her horrific childhood with her aunt at Gateshead House and at the ultra-strict Lowood school, here idyllic days at Thornfield and her later days with the Rivers family and finally to her reunion with Edward Rochester. She did it beautifully too – and without huge costume changes. In fact this was more an un-costume drama with few changes, no frothy frocks for the women nor fancy pants for the men, and all performed under subdued lighting.
One again the shake&stir trademark of brilliant atmosphere created all the nuances of plot advancement and place. This came from the tech team of Josh McIntosh (set), Guy Webster (sound) and Jason Glenwright (lighting). The moods were all perfectly interpreted.
Added to that were mood-setting songs composed by Sarah McLeod who also played Helen Burns, the peculiar young French girl Adelle, the insane Bertha Rochester and Mr Mason.
Helen Howard was just as busy, switching accent and body language to create the evil Sarah Reed, the flirty Blanche Ingram and Alice Fairfax, the housekeeper at Thornfields.
Then there was Anthony Standish in his main role as Edward Rochester. He was perfect as the troubled aristocrat, but on top of that exacting role he switched characters as Mr Brocklehurst, the sadistic director of Lowood Institution, Jane’s kindly uncle, Mr Reed and the priest St. John Rivers. He put in an impeccable performance and created totally different characters in each role. He was very impressive.
The adaptation was long, around two and a half hours. I thought Act One a little too long, but Act Two was so gripping and intense that the hour and ten minutes just sped by.
The cast received a rapturous ovation and deserved it.
Sarah McLeod in her role as Adelle (right)and Nelle Lee.