Review: Jane Eyre, Northern Ballet

Dreda Blow as Jane Eyre in Cathy Marston's new production for Northern Ballet. Photo Emma Kauldhar
Dreda Blow as Jane Eyre in Cathy Marston's new production for Northern Ballet. Photo Emma Kauldhar
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“Style,” said the writer and philosopher Jean Cocteau, “for many people, is a very complicated way of saying very simple things”. Cathy Marston, who has choreographed this dance version of Charlotte Brontë’s classic, turns that thought on its head. For her, style is a very simple way of saying very complicated things. And you don’t get more complex that this story of abandonment, betrayal, passion, jealousy and ultimate redemption. Or more stylish.

The story is (nearly) all here, condensed perfectly into less than two hours on stage. Impressive, given it begins with young Jane orphaned and then institutionalised into an educational establishment and runs through every chapter of her life leading to Thornfield Hall, its secrets and of course Mr Rochester himself.

Dreda Blow and Javier Torres as Jane Eyre and Rochester in Cathy Marston's new production for Northern Ballet. Photo Emma Kauldhar.

Dreda Blow and Javier Torres as Jane Eyre and Rochester in Cathy Marston's new production for Northern Ballet. Photo Emma Kauldhar.

This is a deep reservoir to navigate, with emotion constantly threatening to flood over the dam, but Marston develops a scheme of story-telling that keeps the murky waters threatening in the background. Danced by a stellar cast (I’m thinking particularly here of Dreda Blow as Jane and Javier Torres as Rochester) we get a model of restraint, integrity, loyalty to the Brontë original, and disciplined naturalism. Patrick Kinmouth’s flexible and inventive sets achieve the nigh-impossible, capturing the aridity of confinement and constriction on the one hand, and the broad sweep of the open moors around Thornfield the next.

Another mainstay of a fine evening is the score compiled and composed by Philip Feeney, which combines originality with references to Mendelssohn (Fanny, not Felix) Schubert and late Beethoven, themes which are woven together with a dexterity that is complimentary to the plot, and yet which, one feels would stand admirably alone if it were played as a concert piece.

What we get here, and it is admirably done, is a series of mood shifts, at times almost forensic, but they tell the story perfectly, and (apart from Ms. Blow’s consistently watchable interpretation) if you had to pick a moment that demonstrates what a fine company Northern are, and how it encourages their dancers, then it would be Victoria Sibson’s breath-taking solo as Bertha Mason meets her tragic end. This is edge of the seat stuff and a production that deserves to be kept in repertoire for many years to come.

Jane Eyre, Cast, Doncaster to May 21, then touring. Further information at northernballet.com