JANE Eyre is one of the classics of English Literature. Written almost 170 years ago, Charlotte Bronte’s story of Jane’s struggle to find happiness, love, freedom and fulfilment on her own terms is as inspiring as ever.
Her story has been re-imagined by director Sally Cookson who has brought it to the National Theatre after a successful run at the Bristol Old Vic last year.
It is the most fascinating, beautiful and fabulous production that charts Jane’s beginnings as a baby who soon becomes a destitute orphan before facing her life’s not inconsiderable obstacles head on with an obstinacy, feistiness and determination that was way ahead of her time.
Indeed her story feels fresh and very much current thanks to this brilliant production which is staged on wooden structure made up of a series of ladders, platforms and walkways.
Jane survives poverty, beatings, injustice and a lack of love as well as losing her best friend Helen Burns to TB – indeed the scene in which Helen dies was heartbreakingly sad and I am sure I wasn’t the only one fighting back tears.
Madeleine Worrall is astonishing as Jane. It is such a tour de force and an exhilarating performance that takes the audience on such an incredible journey you hardly notice that it's actually three and a half hours long.
She is joined by a small but fabulous cast who take on multiple roles. Laura Elphinstone takes on five of them including Jane’s best friend Helen, Felix Hayes’s Rochester, is suitably gruff and there is a hilarious turn by Craig Edwards as Rochester's dog Pilot.
The portrayal of Rochester's mad wife Bertha is given to Melanie Marshall who sings the part.
This is an inventive, intelligent, poignant and often funny production which, despite a significant pruning, does the original story justice.
Jane Eyre is on at the National Theatre, South Bank until January 10. Tickets cost from £15. Visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.