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).

A cat, childhood & Jane Eyre

Just as I wanted to start typing this post, this happened…

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My black cat decided to stretch out between me and my laptop. I was distracted by a 30 minute portrait of Orson Welles on BBC TV (after watching another one on Joan Fontaine) and before I knew it there she was. I was able to shift her…

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… but she didn’t stay long and has now found a spot on my daughter’s lap…

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No work today, which is nice for a change. I was tired yesterday after a busy week and a busy working morning. In the afternoon I met up with a neighbour for a walk while we kept our 1,5 meter distance. It’s quite weird taking a walk with someone while maintaining a distance but it is doable and was actually quite nice getting away and chatting like that. Mr Esther, the kids and I had dinner infront of the TV last night with a lovely glass of red wine.

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I was talking to my mother on the phone yesterday, she was asking me for the 2011 Jane Eyre movie that isn’t available on Netflix and wanted to watch Pride and Prejudice as well. So, after two weeks at home and being extremely careful with no sign of sickness, we all decided we felt safe enough to venture out carefully and drop some DVD’s off at my mother’s house. It turned out that she had no DVD player anymore so my older brother found a spare one and offered it to her. To minimize outside contact between my mom and others I arranged to pick up the DVD player at my brother’s and then drive on to my mother’s to loan her the DVDs she and I had selected over the phone (picture taken so I know which DVDs to ask back)…

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Mini-Esther joined me and while on the road we saw signs saying, “Just stepping outside? Keep a distance of 1,5 meters!” and “Together against Corona. Avoid busy spaces.”

At my brother’s house we kept our distance, which is pretty weird when it’s family. No hugs hello or goodbye, no touching. Surreal. My brother, his partner and their kids (15 and 13) are doing well so far and my brother remarked how we were the first people outside their little family to enter their house in two weeks. First time we’ve been inside another house in two weeks as well. We stayed for only 10 minutes or so and then drove on to my mother’s to give her the DVD player and the DVDs. There too we kept our distance to my mother and my younger brother who is staying with her for now. Again, that felt surreal.

We visited longer with my mother and brother, catching up. My brother has been sorting through all the family photos and I took a few pictures of some of the old ones, like this one of me (little girl in the pink dress) taking a walk next to my grandfather (my father’s father) when I was 3 years old and he visited us in Israel…

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He died a year later and it must have been the last time I saw him. I have two vague (and warm) memories of my grandfather. One memory is of him reading me a book before bedtime and the other is of me holding his hand while we were out walking somewhere. It could very well have been on this exact walk!

There were pictures of us visiting the zoo in Jerusalem with my grandmother (my mother’s mother), it must have been around a similar time…

I also enjoyed this picture of us visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, even though you can’t see that much. We are right infront of the altar built over the spot where Jesus is said to have been born. My dad is on the left, I am on the right, closest to the wall.

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There’s a fun picture of me meeting Sinterklaas at the Dutch embassy that used to be in Jerusalem (later moved to Tel Aviv). I think I was 7 or 8 there and I still remember that dress and that necklace! I looked at the picture and exclaimed to my mother, “Isn’t the man playing Sinterklaas Mr. M?”. She said it was indeed. Mr. M. held a high position at the embassy and was a family friend of ours at the time. We used to play with his kids (who were the ages of my eldest brothers and sisters). He had kind eyes and I’ve got to say that after all this time (some 40 years!),  I surprised myself that I still recognized him underneath that outfit.

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There was a picture with my other grandmother (my father’s mother) enjoying a falafel with us, I think I’m about 9 years old here. Not the most flattering picture of me but it made me grin.

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The final picture was taken not long before we left Israel to live in Germany. It think this picture was taken while we were loading the van we had for our journey north. We had bought the van a year or two before in The Netherlands while visiting there on summer holiday and had driven it to Israel (via land and ship). Our final trek away from Israel was also the ship and land route and this was taken just before we embarked on that adventure.

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How our lives would change after this moment in time! Ah, the memories…

Mini Esther and I left my mother’s after about an hour and it’s back into full on isolation again here at home. My mom was going to enjoy The Nun’s Story as we left and it’s taken ages to type this up because (after that Orson Welles portrait on the BBC) they aired 1943’s Jane Eyre with Fontaine and Welles. It’s just finished (it’s a pretty good adaptation!)…

… so I can now proof read this post again for corrections and finally hit “publish”. And so we arrive at dinner time during another day in isolation.

The arts can lift your spirits

I’m just realizing that right now I am blogging daily, I am on a seven-day-streak today! I am surprised at myself but don’t get used to it, I fully expect that any day now I’ll be going down some rabbit hole again and will be disappearing off the face of the blogging-earth again for days on end… Oh, and a little fun fact: yesterday’s post was number 666 on this blog. 😈666Anyway, those were just little points of order, now on to what I actually came on here to blog about.

All this Corona news can be overwhelming: the rapid rise in cases, the people dying, hospitals that can’t cope with the amount of sick people needing care and then there’s all the information thrown out there to keep track of. We have limited our news intake to 2-3 times a day instead of 24/7 because we also need to keep our sanity and we don’t believe any “tips” on Twitter or Instagram – if I want to know something I go to our National Institute for Public Health for information. We stay informed, we do what we can and then we try to keep sane as well by doing nice things.

In addition to the pressures of corona, I have also been working a lot, it has become almost stressful. So, I’m taking a little breather today, just doing the absolutely necessary stuff, blogging in between, and taking the afternoon off. Luckily there are lovely things happening to keep spirits up. Yesterday, for instance, The National Theatre in the UK announced they will be streaming plays on YouTube. It’s free but I will be making a donation because the arts really are so important and I’m so pleased that they’re doing this. I am especially excited that from April 9th they’ll be showing Jane Eyre. I saw that play a few years ago in Leeds and loved it. It will be a different cast from when I saw it but I’m already excited to watch it again!

Jane Eyre (12a)

Patrick Stewart is reading a Shakespeare sonnet a day over on his Twitter account. The one he read on day two was especially heartwarming, maybe because of the twinkling in his eyes. He’s up to 5 or 6 now as I type this, scroll through his account for a look-see.

Sam Neill’s Twitter is heartwarming during the best of times and even more so now. I saw this today and it made me smile from ear to ear. Not just the delivery, I love the gentleness in his face too.

And it looks like my plans for the weekend are taking shape as well. Drunk Austen is doing a Jane Austen con online this weekend. There are some great events scheduled, I think I just may pop in! 🙂

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And to end it all on a smile, here’s Lin-Manuel Miranda doing a David Bowie from Labyrinth bit.

This makes me think that I’d love to see Hamilton on live streaming theatre somewhere, I always hear it’s amazing.

No mp4 of ‘Crucible’ or other plays

We can bury the dream of a ‘hard copy’ of The Crucible or any other plays that are viewable via Digital Theatre. R, the friendly professional support lady from Digital Theatre, got back to me very promptly after my e-mail to her yesterday. Here is what she said:


Good Afternoon Esther, 

You are most welcome! I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better. Our backlog certainly is dropping, so I’m relieved to say that we can once again give our customers the level of care and attention you deserve.

Unfortunately we cannot offer mp4 downloads at this time due to our agreements with the creative owners of the productions and the theatres. However, we would certainly like to offer offline downloads again in the future. 

All the best, 
R.


I’m glad their backlog is dropping, which means that more fans are getting answers; that is a great thing! The “offline downloads in the future” are a bit of a sticky point, however, and I mentioned that to her in my reply. Other than that, this long-term ‘rental’ thing is the best we can hope for, for now. I sincerely hope our trust will not be betrayed in the future. Time will tell.

In the mean time, I am happy that I can still enjoy Richard Armitage in this…

And I still have the stage production of Much Ado About Nothing to enjoy as well…

Now, if only they made actual mp4 downloads or DVDs/BluRays available of these theatre productions, I would totally buy them in the future! For instance, I would love a copy of The National Theatre’s Jane Eyre play as well…

There really is a market for this, if only the theatres, producers and companies would work together and take into account that customers like options and freedom to choose how they want to view and acquire these plays! Of course, I get the need to keep control and to combat pirating, but once it’s out there, you won’t be able to stop that anyhow. Maybe it’s time for some new earning models (don’t know what kind yet) to assure that creative owners and theatres get the revenue they deserve while still giving the audience easier & affordable access to productions that they can actually really keep if they want to. I guess we are all pioneers in a digital world, trying to figure this stuff out.