Jane Eyre at the National Theatre

This week the National Theatre production of Jane Eyre is free to stream on YouTube (here). Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books ever and so I always love seeing how others interpret and adapt the book. I saw the play live on stage two years after this production was filmed during a tour through England in 2017 but with a different cast. I saw it once alone during a matinee and a few days later dragged my husband and kids with me to see it as well. Re-reading what I wrote then, I still agree with my impressions then. There were some points of criticism but every Jane Eyre adaptation has its little gripes for me. Those gripes don’t stop me from finding great things in the adaptations and I found this to be one of the best I have seen yet.

Madeleine Worrall plays Jane Eyre, Felix Hayes plays Rochester. The leads didn’t seem quite right when I saw the first images (Worrall seemed a bit too old to play Jane and Hayes didn’t seem dark enough) but I forgot all that as the play progressed. In the adaptation I saw on tour 3 years ago, I felt the actors looked better for their parts (younger and darker) but in the end it’s all about the intensity and it was there in this version as well as in the one I saw on stage in 2017. What I also loved was that the cast was quite small and it meant that (apart from Worrall) each actor played several characters within the story. Each character is distinctive enough for it to not be confusing and I also loved how even the dog Pilot was acted out in this play, a nice bit of comic relief. Even the musicians on stage (another awesome feature) became part of the cast on occasion.

Here’s a trailer:

Warning: pic spam ahead and spoilers for the story as well should you not know it!

All elements of the story are there in this adaptation as they should be. The story is after all not only a love story, it is a story of growing up, emancipation, strength of character, dealing with pain and loss, striving for freedom and finding your place in the world. Jane’s childhood experiences very much shape the young woman she is to become, so it’s good to see a good deal of time spent on her childhood, at first with the Reed family. She is tenacious, strong willed with a deep sense of right and wrong, and will not be trampled on even though her aunt is uncaring and her cousin bullies her. She likes to escape into reading and in her lonely life her only friend is Bessie, the maid.

The second half of her childhood is spent at Lowood institution. There is so much movement and choreography in this play and I love how they used movement to convey travel.

Lowood is a place of despair but Jane finds a little light for a little while in her friend Helen, whom she sadly also loses.

When she grows up she becomes a teacher at Lowood but yearns to be free. The cast not only play the pupils, they also on occasion play the voices in Jane’s head. I loved that as it felt true to the book where you constantly read all that Jane is thinking.

She advertises and comes to work at Thornfield Hall where she becomes a governess to Adele, the charge of a Mr. Rochester. Just pic spamming here now as she comes to know Adele and Mr Rochester and Mrs Fairfax the housekeeper…

She saves Mr Rochtester from a fire…

… and becomes jealous of Miss Ingram…

… and helps Rochester in a time of need which he thanks her for…

She may look grey and little but she shows a strength of character and steadiness that completely appeals to the gruff and wounded Rochester. She is his saviour although she does not know that yet. She leaves Thornfield for a bit (during the haggling for money part, which I always love, I wished for the “you shall walk up the pyramids of Egypt!” line but alas it wasn’t in there)…

She then returns but refuses to stay with Rochester other than on her own terms. She wants to be free.

Rochester finally confesses his feelings…

… and they almost marry despite Mr Rochester’s secret which he tries to keep hidden until after he has secured Jane.

Alas, the wedding is interrupted and that is always an extremely heartbreaking part of the story. After all of this hardship and strife the little happiness that was finally attained is cruelly lost again. Yes, the happiness was built on a lie and so had no chance of really thriving but it’s still sad. Jane stays strong and principled and Rochester must deal with the reality of his secret. Jane heartbreakingly leaves him, it is the only way.

After some more hardship she finds a new life with the Rivers family where she is content enough. However, she will not compromise her own feelings when St. John asks her to marry him, she will remain strong and true to herself no matter how difficult it is… Her tenaciousness of spirit, built up from her youth, remains intact.

Then on the wind from far away she hears Rochester call out for her…

Jane Eyre NT 2015 (220)

… and she returns to Thornfield Hall where she hears of the fire that burnt the place down and the death of the mysterious inhabitant there. The “Crazy” song that is sung here by the amazing Melanie Marshall (she also played this part in the 2017 tour!) and the way that part of the story is told, just gives me goosebumps.

The reunion of Jane and Rochester is of course beautiful…

… but the one thing I always miss in these adaptations is how Jane saves Rochester yet again at the end of the book, pulling him out of his dispair and feelings of worthlessness. The reunion part of the chapter is always there but I miss the rest of the chapter as well where she basically plays him so that he will come out of his self-pity. Oh well, there is no perfect adaptation out there although I have to say, this one does come close for me!

I also loved the use of music in this adaptation, from the musicians playing on stage to the role of singer Melanie Marshall as Bertha and as sometime narrator. The music is very evocative.

Let me end with a little video about how the whole play was devised, including an interview with Worrall and Hayes.

What I love about the Jane Eyre story is how Jane is always true to herself, believes she is worth something, sticks to what she feels is right and will not compromise on striving for her freedom and for what makes her happy. I love that she seems grey and hidden and Mr Rochester is the first one to finally see who she is in her glory. I love that, through finally being seen and finding an equal sparring partner, she starts to soar. Rochester helps her bloom and in turn she saves Rochester from his darkness. This adaptation brings Jane and Rochester to life though simple-looking staging, inventive choreography, wonderful music and great performances. I conveyed my enthusiasm in the live chat during the premiere live-stream this last Thursday on YouTube and even received a chat reply.

This play is a keeper (and very worth donating to should you feel so inclined).

One-day film festival with Oscar nominees

Last weekend I went to another one-day film festival at one of the large Pathé cinemas here in the Netherlands. The PAC (Pathé Alternative Cinema) festival is held twice a year and I try to get to at least one of these each year. My friend and I went last Sunday. The line-up was as follows (and as of yesterday, 4 of the 5 movies here have garnered Oscar nominations!):

pac20_70x100 poster-maart

I’m not going to go into detailed descriptions and criticisms of each movie, just giving quick impressions of what these movies did for me. I can tell you straight off that I liked all of them (yes, even Green Book!) but that I think my fave of all these 5 movies was the first one called Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the true story of an author who has fallen on hard times and by chance discovers that faking letters from famous authors can earn her a lot of money.

canyoueverforgiveme-catI loved the story and I loved the character of Lee Israel; Melissa McCarthy portrayed her beautifully. I loved seeing a character in a lead role who isn’t all skinny and pretty (although I do find, and have always found, Melissa McCarthy to be pretty and cute), someone who seems dowdy, caustic and even unlikable. She is someone who is pretty much invisible to the world around her and yet, she is so rich on the inside and yes, despite her flaws and sarcasm, she is lovable, maybe because of the very real struggles she is facing. Also, anyone who loves their cat as Lee Israel does has something good in them, regardless. 😉 Richard E. Grant plays Jack Hock, someone who is down on his luck as well and becomes her best friend and he too plays this role beautifully. What I liked most of all was that these characters are layered, they aren’t all good or all bad, they are all only human. What seems drab and maybe even evil on the outside isn’t necessarily all that on the inside.

canyoueverforgivemeI was tickled pink to discover that both Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant have been nominated for Oscars for their roles. They so deserve it!

Next up was the movie If Beale Street Could Talk. It’s about a young African-American couple who are in love. After Tish’s (Kiki Layne) fiancé Fonny (Stephen James) is unjustly arrested, she looks back on their relationship and does everything in her power to get him released. The two young lead actors beautifully portrayed their characters. They were so gentle and sweet, very poetic in a way. I loved Tish, such a sweet, open and innocent face, starting out grown up life in such difficult circumstances…

beale street… and I loved Regina King who plays Tish’s mom. She almost stole the movie for me. She too has been deservedly nominated for an Oscar.

The film was almost other-worldly, dreamlike, and felt very poetic. That also made it quite a slow movie, almost too slow. My friend even nodded off for a bit there. I loved the feeling of goodness trying to overcome evil and prejudice in this film and I liked that the ending wasn’t glossed over happy, but the movie was too slow in parts and so for that, I can’t give it the highest marks. It did feel very topical and gives food for thought, though, which is always excellent.

The next movie we saw was Vice. It’s a comedy-drama film, dripping with sarcasm, about Dick Cheney who was the former vice-president under George W. Bush. Cheney is played by Christian Bale whom you hardly recognize as Bale. He is excellent in the role…

vice02

… as is Amy Adams in her role as his wife Lynne.

vice01While I was very aware of George W. Bush as president (and truly hated his presidency), I only recalled Dick Cheney by name. I knew virtually nothing about the man, other than that he had been vice-president and that he had been Secretary of Defense under papa Bush, where he pushed for a war on Iraq on what I recall as flimsy or even false evidence. The film is very polarizing, I can imagine Democrats in the US loving this and Republicans hating this and after seeing this I still don’t know what’s really true or not. I tend to believe he must have been a sleaze, as I also truly hated the George W. Bush presidency and from the beginning felt the war on Iraq was more about oil than about Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein, but I don’t know if this movie does justice to Cheney or not. The movie clearly does state that they are not sure everything played out as they show it, and even have someone during the end credits claim the movie is liberal bullshit, which I thought was a very nice touch. Regardless of how polarized it is, the sarcasm made me laugh at times and I especially loved the scene between Dick and Lynne in their bedroom, doing a Shakespearean dialogue. That alone is Oscar-worthy. And yes, these two actors have also been nominated for Oscars! So, yes, I did like the movie, even though I was very aware of it being a one-sided, liberal stand-up show which also had some surprising twists and turns. My friend isn’t so much into politics, especially not US politics, and didn’t like it so much. Some of it went over her head, I think, as I think it did to a lot of the Dutch audience. I was laughing in places where I noticed no one else around me laughing… So, I’m thinking this movie works best in the US and for people who are interested in politics.

After this came Green Book, which I was very curious about after having read Servetus’s criticism of it. I really like both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali and the story interested me too. Mahershala Ali plays classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley, who is doing a tour in the Deep South of the US in the early 1960s and hires Italian Tony “Lip” Vallelonga to be his driver.

green-book

I get the criticism of the film, and especially the fried chicken running joke felt off, and for a while there the idea of Tony ‘educating’ Don on what black people should like felt off as well. But I also saw this movie as a story mostly about Tony who has to face his prejudice against African-Americans and through actually becoming friends with an African-American, learns the error of his ways. This movie is mostly aimed at a white audience, I think, but is it really so bad to address this from a white point of view? To me African-American Don felt in no way inferior to Italian-American Tony and it was nice seeing the African-American character as the eclectic, more-cultured and learned man. He was the main educator to me, rather than the white man. Yeah, Tony tried to ‘teach’ Don about African-American music and about letting other people in, but in the end the lessons Tony learned from Don where more profound than the other way around. Not only the lesson of racism but also the lesson of learning to express yourself more eloquently, the importance of dignity and learning that not all African-Americans love the same things. Don didn’t need to change so much, except for maybe letting people in a little bit more, Tony did need to change and this was mostly Tony’s story. I’m sure there was stereotyping of African-Americans in this, but I have a feeling there was Italian-American stereotyping as well. Maybe I’m missing nuances here but from an outsider’s point of view on racism in the US, this to me didn’t feel so very biased against African-Americans. It was not a very surprising movie, however, and did feel a bit like a story that has been told before. It also never really dug deep into the psyche of these two men, it remained a little shallow overall. So, in that sense, this wasn’t the best movie of the day for me. It was pretty enough but lacked depth. Viggo and Mahershala have both also been Oscar nominated for this and while I thought Viggo did really well (and I would be happy for him to win, though maybe not for this role), I liked Mahershala even more. He’s up in the same category as Richard E. Grant for the Oscars, it’ll be a tough call. Although, in hindsight, maybe it isn’t so tough, as I think the depth of Richard’s character was more developed than the depth of Mahershala’s.

The final film of the evening was Arctic starring Mads Mikkelsen, he of Hannibal fame to Richard Armitage fans.

It’s a movie about a man surviving on his own after his plane crashes in the Arctic. You don’t see the crash, you just have this story of this one man trying to survive. At first he stays put but when he rescues an unconscious woman from a helicopter crash (a team of pilots who tried to save him had crash landed) he decides he needs to move and find safetly with her in tow, pretty much unconscious for the whole movie. Not much dialogue and a lot of hardships are endured and yet it still was a good watch. Again, like Green Book, it wasn’t the most surprising movie, especially not after having seen The Mountain Between Us a year or so ago with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba also trying to survive such a freezer climate together (although Kate is not unconscious for too long). Still, it was never dull, the story moved along nicely and my friend, although it was the last movie of the day, never once dropped off to sleep. 🙂

All in all, I enjoyed all the films and some more than others. If I had to put it in order from fave to least fave of the day, the list would be:

  1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?  – Everything was right in this movie – story, characters, depth and the way it all looked and felt.
  2. Vice – The storytelling in this movie surprised me several times, different from any other movie I know, I really liked that. Also, I can really appreciate sarcasm.
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk – The most sympathetic characters in this one, with a dreamlike quality and food for thought. However, also a little slow.
  4. Green Book – Mainly liked it for the two main actors in this and it looked good. The movie overall didn’t have that much depth, though, and didn’t feel very new.
  5. Arctic – well-acted by Mads but I felt like I’d seen it all before.

Order!

Been watching the BBC and the Brexit deal vote all evening. 202 Members of Parliament voted for Theresa May’s Brexit deal and 432 MP’s have voted against. What next, I wonder, with 2/3 of parliament against the deal? But I don’t want to go into politics here, rather I’d liked to focus on the speaker of the House of Commons.

I think for the first time ever I really noticed the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. I rarely watch any UK parliamentary debates, mostly only see highlights on the news and those don’t show the speaker so much. This evening, however, I have been watching Jeremy Corbyn’s and Theresa May’s speeches in parliament live on TV and John Bercow stood out. Watching the House of Commons is always an interesting show with all the shouting going on and I looked on in admiration how this little man, looking a bit despotic, tried to keep control of the session. I know nothing of the man or his politics but his handling of rowdy MP’s just made me laugh. Been looking on YouTube and found some good clips, like this one from last year…

or this one…

I’m sure he must sometimes seem crass or make people angry, and I wonder if he can even be seen as bullying, but goodness, parliament is LOUD and you really do need someone knowledgeable with good vocal chords calling MP’s out on their behaviour to keep control over parliament! I know I couldn’t do it…

Miss Fisher movie crowdfunding!

It’s no secret that I have fallen in love with the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries; I have made a handful of fan videos for the show, after all. Season 3 ended something like this for Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) and Jack Robinson (Nathan Page)…

… which was really a very open-ended ending. The good thing about open ends is that it sparks a lot of fan fiction, the bad thing is that you really want to see what happens next and you can’t!

For a while now there has been talk of a sequel in the form of a movie but financing has been a problem. Last spring there was a report of the script being discussed with the actors, but there has been no go ahead as yet for the project. So, the team have come up with crowdfunding as a solution! Here’s a video of Nathan Page (on the Miss Fisher Facebook page) getting the idea to crowdfund:

And here’s the link to the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, explaining in more detail what they want to do: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/468758721/miss-fisher-the-movie.

Also, two images I’d like to share that I have borrowed off that Kickstarter page; one explaining what makes Miss Fisher special and the other because the image is just lovely…

Miss Fisher director's statementMiss Fisher plane

Yeah, I think I need to back this one. Feel free to do so as well, if you care to. 🙂

#Armitage fans – Burned by @DigitalTheatre’s Crucible?How to Help

Still no reaction from Digital Theatre? Here’s what we can try, thank you to Perry for initiating this!

Armitage Agonistes

At this stage, with no really helpful reply or action from Digital Theatre, I’m proposing that Richard Armitage fans make a concerted, signal-boosted effort to get @DigitalTheatre’s attention and action – through Twitter and Facebook. (Meanwhile, keep those emails going)

Many Richard Armitage fans, and probably other DT customers, have faced a frustrating time these past weeks trying to gain access to The Crucible on the DT website.  it started with change in Terms of Service, and hasn’t ended yet. The solution DT is proposing is just sending us around in circles, receiving the same useless email responses, IT order tickets, inaccessibility to the site, and most frustratingly – notices that they’re closed over a holiday that ended over a week ago.

It appears that although they are claiming a backlog – not ONE customer has had success. in accessing The Crucible or even getting resubscribed to the site.

You…

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