Fictional crush challenge – day 2

10 days, 10 fictional crushes
Post an image of a fictional character who has been or still is your crush. No names or explanations needed. TV, movie, book, comic, cartoon characters are valid.

When I was 9 years old I had two abridged, youth version books of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre which I loved. The one had details in the story the other didn’t have so I used to read them both and I read them often. One of the abridged books had drawn illustrations and the other had pictures of the 1973 BBC TV mini series in it. I developed a crush on Mr. Rochester and studied those photos extensively, picturing the character of Rochester with this face. It would be at least another 25 years before I would finally actually see the 1973 adaptation.

I have seen many more Rochesters besides Michael Jayston since I first read the abridged book and later the original version.

Orson Welles, George C. Scott, Timothy Dalton, William Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Stephens, Michael Fassbender, Felix Hayes, Tim Delap. And hmmmm, as I type this the day before it gets posted and look over at the couch to Mr. Esther (who is sporting his ‘corona beard’) he gives me Mr Rochester vibes as well, i.e. the bearded version as portrayed by Hayes and Delap for the National Theatre.

Anyway, each of these Rochesters brought to life by actors had their pros and cons and I don’t have the patience to go into all of that now, it would take too long. Suffice it to say that my fascination with Mr. Rochester, warts and all, remains intact to this day.

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).