Review: Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre at New Theatre, Cardiff.

Jane Eyre. A man lifting a woman up in the air.
*Thanks to New Theatre for tickets to this performance.

I seem to be attending quite a lot of ballet performances of late, but this still makes me no expert at all. I am learning, slowly, and I hope that my reviews in this genre are helpful to newbie ballet goers, or even just a way of seeing each concept differently, from fresh eyes and an honest tongue.

I’ve been waiting to see Jane Eyre for a while now, and I was so excited to be able to pop to New Theatre (Did I tell you we live in Cardiff now so we can WALK to most of the theatres?! I know!) to see Northern Ballet’s take on this classic tale.

Jane is a young orphaned girl who goes to live with her aunt and cousins at Gateshead Hall. She is bullied and tormented and eventually shipped off to boarding school. She eventually ends up teaching at the school, and later accepts a governess position at Thornfield. Here she begin to fall in love with her employer, Rochester, later agreeing to marry him. Before the wedding Jane discovers Rochester’s secret; he has been keeping his (mad) wife locked in the attic because she’s dangerous and unstable. Jane flees, unable to deal with the situation, but she has no money and eventually becomes very weak and poorly. She is rescued by a stranger and cared for, but soon leaves them to find Rochester, his house burnt down, his wife dead and his sight lost. But Jane still loves him, and really, love is all anyone needs…

I’m starting this off by telling you, quite honestly, that I’ve never read Jane Eyre. BUT, after last night’s performance, it’s already in my Amazon basket. I went into the production knowing very little about this story, but in hindsight I don’t think it mattered at all. On the interval, my theatre bud explained the story in more detail, and everything seemed to slot into place ready for Act II. So, if you are keen to see this, don’t worry if you have no clue about the storyline, just sit back and enjoy it; you’ll be mesmerised.

A man sat in a huge arm chair.

The stage, set and costume were all very neutral and bare, but this only emphasised the smooth transitions from scene to scene. The costumes were really elegant and they moved perfectly with the performers; I absolutely loved the addition of ‘bloomers’ as part of the costume, as well as the fact that not one performer wore ‘shoes’ as I’ve seen so often in other shows. They also rarely ‘walked’ around, everything was a planned out and beautifully choreographed step, which not only looked beautiful but also helped the story to flow seamlessly along.

The first act focuses on Jane’s back story before she meets Rochester, as well as her first meeting and some part of her relationship with him. The choreography is out of this world, with gentle and subtle movements to more elaborate moves and lifts. I was mesmerised with how each member of the cast moved along the stage, never faltering.

For me, the second act was a lot more powerful, simply because I felt I’d gotten to grips with the story, plus the tale grew darker, more manic and mysterious – who doesn’t love that kind of theatre action? I adored the interaction between Rochester and Jane, it felt incredibly intense and breathtaking.

When it comes to emotion, I nearly cried twice. Once, when Jane’s friend dies at boarding school, and secondly, when Rochester loses his sight. Both events were handled with such care and intricacy, and they both made me feel very emotional indeed. I think, had I known the story well beforehand, I would have definitely shed a tear (or two!).

I think my favourite thing about the whole performance must be how well rounded each character is.There are no words, only music and movement, expression, costume and set. So the performers have a lot to convey, and they did it so well last night. Jane gives us serenity, innocent, trust, truth and adoration, whilst Rochester offers confidence verging on arrogance, power and deep down deceit. This was portrayed perfectly, and so was everyone’s character…

Rochester and his wife in a dance/fight.

Some special and quirky performances came in the form of Mrs Fairfax (the housekeeper) and Adele (her new pupil). Mrs Fairfax had so much character during the performance, with her choreography creating a busy-bee style persona, whilst Adele’s childlike disposition was obvious from the start. I also adored the crazy wife’s part in the whole performance. Firstly she was the only one in brightly coloured attire, with a fiery red dress and feral spirit to match. She set the stage alive with a manic, yet beautifully presented, performance and even though she was presented as pretty nuts, she did it so beautifully. This amazing use of dance is so utterly breathtaking, clever and incredibly beautiful to watch; I have no idea how they all do it, but they truly give 110%.

I think Jane Eyre is truly mesmerising; it is dark, intriguing, romantic and completely built on music, movement, performance and pure perfection.

Jane Eyre is running until 28th April, so get your tickets whilst you can!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *