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!

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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.

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).

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Rochester and Jane become acquainted and fall in love…

… despite the vain Blanche Ingram…

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

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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).

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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!

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?