Jane Eyre in Leeds!

During my summer holiday we also were in Yorkshire and stayed not too far from Leeds. As it happens, the play Jane Eyre, staged by The National Theatre, has been touring England and was in Leeds at the same time as when we were there. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is one of my absolute favourite books, I think I have seen pretty much every TV and film adaptation, but I had never seen a play of it before. Naturally, I couldn’t resist it and, months before we even left for England, I had already booked my ticket for a matinée showing on a Wednesday afternoon. The kids lazed away at the campsite that day, Mr Esther chose to go to a museum and I chose to go see the play. And what a play it was! I loved it so much, that that Wednesday evening I went online and purchased another 4 tickets for the Saturday evening performance, so that my husband and kids could see it as well.

The staging was simple: a wooden construction with ladders and a ramp that is used for many purposes in different house-settings. The top part is, for instance, used as the feared red room of Jane’s childhood in Gateshead, a school bedroom at Lowood school, or Jane’s room in Thornfield Hall when she is a grown up.

There was a cast of about 15 people, and every person, except for Jane, played multiple roles. When I told Mr. Esther about that after the first time I had seen it, he thought it sounded confusing, but it really isn’t. Each character is so different, it isn’t difficult to understand who is who. For me, that also goes to show how great the acting is – the actors just disappear into their roles. On the Wednesday matinée the understudy Phoebe Vigor played the role of Jane Eyre…

… and when we saw it on Saturday evening the regular lead Nadia Clifford played Jane.

Both actresses were very good but I do think that Nadia had the edge over Phoebe in her intensity of her portrayal of Jane. To me, she delivered a stand-out performance, along with Tim Delap as Mr. Rochester; Evelyn Miller, who played several roles (Bessie, Blanche Ingram and St. John Rivers!) and Paul Mundell who also played several roles (Mr. Brocklehurst, Mason and the very funny role of Pilot, the dog!). These pictures are from the programme booklet I had purchased:

Not only the play and the acting were phenomenal, the music was as well, with original music but also some adapted pieces of music and even a sort of on-the-road-rap when Jane goes travelling! There is a 3 piece band on the stage in the background and occasionally the musicians become part of the cast as well. The other stand-out performance was by singer Melanie Marshall who has a phenomenal voice. She is a Greek chorus of sorts who pops up during several scenes and is also Bertha Mason. When she sings “Does that make me crazy?” at the end as Bertha dies, it is truly a goosebumps moment.

Here’s a little featurette on the music of this production:

These following pictures of the play give you an impression of what it all looked like. There was Jane’s childhood, of course, in Gateshead, here with Mr. Brocklehurst examining her before she goes to Lowood and Jane’s travel by coach to said school/institution, which was extremely well done with movement and rhythm and stops for sheep on the road!

Costume changes for Jane happened on stage and she had to wear a school uniform, of course. The 3 band members also became students at Lowood, hence the bearded girls in these pictures below (click to enlarge). 🙂 The children keep warm by the fire at the cold school, Jane is punished and has to stand on a stool and she makes a friend named Helen and is with her as Helen dies…

Jane grows up and becomes a teacher, her growing up illustrated by her change in clothes when she has to start wearing a corset and pulls her hair back. She becomes a teacher and is at first happy but soon the dreariness of repetition creeps in and Jane feels boxed in. She advertises and then leaves Lowood for Thornfield Hall to work as a governess there, where she feels free!

She meets Mr. Rochester who comes dashing  by on a horse, with his dog Pilot accompanying him (Jane on the left, Pilot running down the ramp, Rochester on his horse on the right).

JANE EYRE UK Tour 2017 Royal National Theatre

Rochester and Jane become acquainted and fall in love…

… despite the vain Blanche Ingram…

Jane Eyre (12)

After Jane returns from visiting her dying aunt in Gateshead, Rochester proposes and is accepted by an initially unbelieving Jane.

Jane Eyre (12a)

There is also the incident with the torn veil…

Jane getting dressed for her wedding happens on stage.

But then all dreams are shattered when the truth about Rochester and Bertha emerges and Jane has to leave…

Jane runs away from Thornfield and is finally taken in by St. John Rivers and his sister (only one sister in the play).

Jane Eyre St John Rivers

In the end Jane is able to return to Rochester and it is a beautiful, heart-soaring scene when they reunite.

Even though the play was 3 hours long, the story was still condensed. That did make me miss some things. For instance, Jane and Rochester falling in love happened so quickly, I remember missing some of the build up. At times Jane, though strong and steadfast, also seemed a little meek during the beginning of their relationship. Maybe if they had kept more of the dialogue of their initial conversations, I might not have thought that.

Also, as with pretty much all adaptations I have seen, the ending did not quite satisfy me. Of course, I love the Jane and Rochester reunion but there is more to the ending than only that aspect. A lot is made of Jane’s feistiness (I loved that, often made me think of my daughter, which is why I thought she might enjoy the play too!) and her independent will. In the book, Jane gains final independence through an inheritance and when she chooses Rochester, it is a real free choice and not something she has to do to stay out of poverty. The inheritance, however, is never mentioned in the play (even though her uncle in Madeira is!). She has 3 choices in the book: she can stay alone but is rich, she can go to India as a missionary and St. John’s wife, or she can find Rochester. She chooses the latter and when she does find him she is maybe more than his equal – she essentially is the one who rescues him, not he her! This rescuing of Rochester never comes out in adaptations and it never came out here either.  Yes, she loves Rochester in the play and choosing him was right, but her independence in making this right choice for herself didn’t quite come through here for me.

The ending of any Jane Eyre adaptation I have seen is always a bit of a sore point for me. No adaptation has ever shown it as it really should be in my eyes, with only the 2006 BBC mini series coming close to that. There were things wrong with that series too, but I liked the ending.

Having said all that, I still loved this play! I loved that all the stages in Jane’s life were represented and that it wasn’t only about the Rochester-Jane love story, I loved the intensity of the leads which brought me to tears several times, I loved the staging of it, how alive it felt, the humour and the drama.  Jane was the right amount of feisty and independent but was also invisible when she needed to be; Rochester was the right amount of gruff and world-weary, yet wounded.  Jane was small and nice looking but not too pretty, Rochester was tall and nice looking but not too handsome, just as they should be.

Originally this was a 4 hour play in two parts (shown on two consecutive evenings) that was later condensed to 3 hours for The National Theatre. I would have loved to have seen it in the original 4 hours, maybe I would have then not missed what I mentioned above. In any case, this was very much worth seeing and yes, my family enjoyed it as well! Here is the trailer again, it really gives a good impression of the feel of the play.

There are also some fun rehearsal pictures to share from the programme in which we see Pilot lying on the floor while Adele pets him and Rochester & Jane are talking, Adele showing Rochester Jane’s paintings and Adele playing with Pilot who has jumped onto Rochester’s chair (click to enlarge):

And another rehearsal picture I came across online:Tim-Delap-Nadia-Clifford-in-rehearsal-for-Jane-Eyre

As I was looking for images online, I saw that Nadia Clifford and Tim Delap had also visited Charlotte Brontë’s home in Haworth, with pictures of them in character around the Brontë parsonage. I find these pictures especially evocative, maybe because I have recently been there myself.

I think I have to rank this adaptation at the top end of my favourite Jane Eyre adaptations list! I haven’t seen a perfect adaptation yet, but that’s OK, what counts is that I loved this one, despite some of the faults. I was almost going to say that I wish it was available via Digital Theatre, but with the drama that is happening there now with ‘purchased productions’ I think I’m happy that they don’t have it… I do wish I could see this again, though!

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Down time & Mr. Rochester

After a few very busy weeks since our summer holiday, I finally feel like I have a moment to breathe again, sort of like my kids in this picture from a few weeks ago in England:

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Here is the list of what’s been occupying me (and I didn’t even put the news or Digital Theatre on it! Still haven’t heard from them, by the way, need to send a reminder e-mail…):

  • Attention has been focussed on my kids who both started new schools. They have both made very good starts and I can’t even begin to express how relieved I am about that! The relief is especially big in my daughter’s case, as she’s had it so tough last year. She has been coming home from school happy and I haven’t seen that in her in a long, long time. My son was a bit overwhelmed with the world of his new hotel management school at first, but even he is coming home happy. Yes, a good start and when the kids seem happy it does a lot for a mama’s happiness as well.
  • The house was in disarray for a few weeks due to some projects but that’s under control now.
  • The Dutch class I teach for a very small group of foreigners will be starting up again next week but some things in the organization have changed, so there have been meetings and e-mails and such.
  • Work has been busy for us but especially so for me. Yesterday I had to train a group of colleagues (it was a pilot) with an afternoon programme that I had completely set up and prepared. It was one of the reasons why I was hired, so the pressure was really on for it to be good. Luckily, it was! It will need a few small tweaks here and there (it’s not a pilot for nothing), but overall it went really well. Another great relief!

I have been working so much this past week that I was able to take this afternoon off and do some clothes shopping. I finally found a coat for the autumn that I like and for the right price too! Back home again and right now, my daughter is upstairs in her room chatting on her phone with friends, my son is at a friend’s house, Mr Esther is preparing his delicious signature lasagna dish for dinner and I’m on the couch at my laptop. I keep on thinking I need to jump up and DO something but no, I don’t need to do anything! I can just be! It feels a little unreal…

So, I just had to use this down time to blog again, but as I don’t know what about (and no, I can’t do news right now, it’s a bit overwhelming with all the horrible floods in Texas and South East Asia), this is the post you get. 🙂 I can now more fully focus my attention on the more trivial things in life. For example, I am excited for season 5 of A Place To Call Home to begin, the first trailer is looking lovely and dramatic…

It’ll be another month before it airs but it’s really something to look forward to!

I also just stumbled on this picture of Richard Armitage again while my screen saver was running earlier and it made my heart skip a beat again…

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And finally, I hope that this weekend I will find the peace of mind to write-up my impressions of the Jane Eyre play I saw in Leeds a few weeks ago. I’m still very much in Jane Eyre world as I am reading Mr Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker right now, which tells the story from Mr. Rochester’s point of view. The largest part of the book covers the time before he meets Jane and (almost surprisingly) I am flying through this and am finding it a great read!

This fan fiction (which this or any other re-telling basically is) is, I think, the best I’ve ever read! And hey, doesn’t the profile on the cover remind you of someone? Maybe (besides Shakespeare in the theatre in London at the end of next year – yay!), having Richard Armitage cast as Mr Rochester for a film adaptation of this book would be a good idea? A girl can dream, right?

Rapid Fire Book Q&A

Sue over on her I’m Feeling This blog answered some quick questions on books and now these questions have been floating around my head as well! So, I thought I’d have a go at them myself and try to answer them as briefly as possible…


Ebooks or physical books?

Lately, Ebooks, but I love having physical books too, especially of favourite books. We have a lot of books in our house.

books

Our livingroom bookshelves (you can’t see the two more rows of books below those shelves visible here and the other books in other places in our house).

Paperback or hardback?

Paperback. Cheaper to buy, easier to hold while reading in bed and easy to put into my work bag.

Online or in-store book shopping?

Online when I know what book I want, in-store for browsing.

Trilogies or series?

Hmm, not a big fan of either. Harry Potter was a good series, though!

Heroes or villains?

Heroes, but no super-heroes.

A book you want everyone to read?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Recommend an underrated book.

Dunno! Sue answered ‘chick lit’ here and I kinda agree. Love that for easy reading when I don’t want to tax my mind too much.

The last book you finished?

Liverpool Sisters by Lyn Andrews, chick lit about suffragettes. Sadly found it a bit disappointing.

Weirdest thing you used as a bookmark?

Small used plastic sandwich bag?

Used books, yes or no?

Yes. I like buying them from Amazon marketplace.

amazon

Borrow or buy?

It used to be borrow from the library but I buy more now (second-hand mostly).

Characters or plot?

Character-centric plot.

Long or short book?

250 – 400 pages is fine

Long or short chapters?

Whatever is needed.

Name the first three books you think of?

Mr Rochester by Susan Shoemaker that I just downloaded on my e-reader after reading a review on Herba’s blog.

Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman, because there was so much Richard III on my holiday and I’m more curious than ever now. This reminds me I still need to look for it on Amazon.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte because I still want to write up my thoughts of the play I saw in Leeds a few weeks ago.

Books that make you laugh or cry?

Oh, how to choose? But I think I have read more drama than outright comedy.

Our world or fictional worlds?

Our world.

Audiobooks : yes or no?

Nope. I tried, but no. Not even for Richard Armitage.

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

Covers can attract my attention but I try not to judge too quickly.

Book to movie or book to TV adaptation?

Either.

A movie or TV adaptation you preferred over the book?

Atonement by Ian McEwan. I loved the movie, then read the book and while I did finish it, I found the book very tedious.

Atonement_UK_poster

Series or standalone?

Standalone.


Anyone else feel inclined to answer these? Please feel free too!

Dreams can come true…

Jane Eyre and the Brontës have come to life for me in the past few days!

We’re in West Yorkshire now, on a campsite near Harrogate, and on Wednesday I went to the theatre on my own to see The National Theatre’s play of one of my absolute favourite novels, Jane Eyre.

The play is touring through England and happens to be in Leeds this week, so when I got wind of it a few months back and I knew I’d be in the neighbourhood, I immediately booked myself a ticket. Alone, without the family, as I didn’t think it would be something for the kids. I had purposely not read that much about the play beforehand, I just understood that it was supposed to be good and boy, was it! Here, have a gander at the trailer…

I thought it was wonderful, for me it came close to the experience I had with The Crucible. I was quite emotional at the end of it! Of course, there were a few things I missed and a few minor gripes, but overall this really was excellent! So much so, that I convinced my husband we should all go see it as a family because I think even the kids can enjoy this one. So, we have booked tickets and will all go and see the last performance in Leeds on Saturday evening. I will write up my full impressions of the play sometime after that. I need time to process… and watch again…

I’m in full-on Brontë mode, because today (yesterday by the time this post is published) we visited Haworth Parsonage where the Brontë family lived. For me, this was the main reason for our trip. I have wanted to see this place for myself ever since I fell in love with Jane Eyre in my teens (before that, actually, when I first read a simplified version of Jane Eyre at the age of 9 or 10!).

We first drove by the village of Thornton, by the house where Charlotte Brontë and 3 of her siblings were born…

… and it got me wondering: was this village the inspiration for the name John Thornton in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South? Gaskell, famously, was a friend of Charlotte’s and wrote the first Charlotte Brontë biography two years after Charlotte died (and also two years after N&S was published).

Afterwards we drove to the village of Haworth, where the Brontës moved to when Charlotte was 4 and where she and her whole family lived for the rest of their lives. Her father, Patrick Brontë, preached at the church there and in the church is also where the family found their last resting place. The graves can’t be seen, there’s a pillar above where the family vault is, put there after the chruch was rebuilt after the deaths of all the Brontës. Maria Brontë, the mother, was the first to go when the youngest child, Anne, was only a few months old. The oldest girls, Maria and Elizabeth, passed away because of TB when they were around 10, Branwell was 30 when he died because of opium and alcohol abuse, Emily Brontë died only 3 months later (also of TB) and Anne died half a year after that (again TB). Charlotte died a few years later at age 38, probably due to the effects of extreme morning sickness, nine months after she had gotten married. Patrick Brontë outlived his whole family, he lived till his 80s. Anne Brontë is the only one not buried here, she rests in Scarborough, where she died…

The church and the parsonage where the Brontës lived are very close to each other, separated by only a graveyard…

Next to the church, on the path that leads from the parsonage to the church, there is a school that Patrick Brontë set up and where his children also taught at…

The village is situated on steep hills and very pretty…

We had lunch in this pub…

And at the end of the afternoon we had drinks in “Branwell’s pub”, The Black Bull, where Branwell used to go (as soon as he had any money) to get drunk…

The highlight of the visit was of course the Brontë Parsonage itself! The right part of the house was added on after the Brontës had gone.

Inside was Patrick Brontë’s study, with the magnifying glass he used for reading and the piano Emily used to play on; there’s the kitchen; the children’s study; Patrick’s bedroom (the neat one); and Branwell’s messy, artistic bedroom (click on images to enlarge). By the way, all the costumes you see on display were used in the BBC TV film about the Brontës: To Walk Invisible.

One of the most special rooms was the sitting/dining room with the table where Jane Eyre had been written at by Charlotte!
Bronte parsonage (2)

Charlotte Brontë’s bedroom upstairs (also the room in which she died) has all sorts of artefacts, like her reading glasses laid out on her writing desk, some portraits she drew, her shoes or the wax seal that she had used.

There were more artefacts on display in another section of the house, like Emily Brontë’s artist’s box; a dress-up top hat (not an original) that Mr Esther put on for my viewing pleasure; a lock of Charlotte’s hair; the original signatures of Currer Bell (Charlotte Brontë), Ellis Bell (Emily Brontë) and Acton Bell (Anne Brontë); Emily Brontë’s wax seal; writing by teenage Charlotte and a first edition of Wuthering Heights.

At the museum there was also an extra special event: an art project where, during 2 half hours each day, the lost manuscript of Wuthering Heights is being re-created, one line at a time (see description in the picture below, click to enlarge). The people who choose to do so get to copy one line of the novel into the manuscript; I also participated and wrote one line from Chapter 23…

It was the end of the afternoon by the time we left Haworth. Right behind the parsonage the Yorkshire moors start, so famously depicted by the Brontës. We drove on for a few miles and then got out for a little walk on these moors. The views are breathtaking, the colours on the moor change all the time with the clouds and sun at play, it really felt like I was walking in Jane Eyre’s world or in Wuthering Heights!

Seeing Haworth, the Brontë Parsonage and the moors for myself was a dream come true for me! I won’t quickly forget this experience…

Irreverence

Some weeks ago I was recommended a trilogy of books by Paula Aidan that re-tells the story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. I finished the first book, An Assembly Such as This, about a week ago and on the train on my way home from work this afternoon, I started the second book called Duty and Desire. It is set after Darcy and Bingley quit Netherfield and starts out with a scene of Darcy in church. He is listening to the reverend’s reading when Colonel Fitzwilliam arrives, late. And oh my goodness, that bit of writing made me laugh out loud! The train wasn’t full, but the burst of giggle did earn me some questioning looks. Here is that passage that made me laugh…

Duty & Desire excerpt

This kind of irreverence I love!

There’s humourous irreverence but there is also serious irreverence. The blatant, serious irreverence shown by that bumbling excuse of a US president can not make me laugh at all. I cringe and fear for the future. First the man makes an ass of himself in the Middle East and Europe, alienating European allies, looking like the stereotype of the garish American tourist (I truly cringe for my American friends when I see this, I know how mortified they are)…

… and then he decides to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change in such an act of selfishness that I just can not comprehend it! We’re 4 months into his presidency, how will the world survive 4 years of this shortsighted, selfish ignorance? I truly see him as a menace to the world. I do take comfort in the fact that there is loud opposition to this man, and I add my opposition here! I have this German magnet here in my house that I have had for years and which nicely sums up how I feel about every single Trump policy so far! It’s my little sign of protest…

dagegen magnet

“Dagegen” is German for “opposed”.

In the meantime I try not to freak out and try to keep hope alive by consuming protest and more irreverence, like in the following video: Graham Norton, Salma Hayek and David Walliams commenting on part of Trump’s foreign trip last week…

… and new French president Emmanuel Macron poking at Trump yesterday in his reaction to the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, calling to “make the PLANET great again!”…

When I see things like this, I just know there must be hope for the future!