THE National Theatre’s celebrated production of Jane Eyre will be shown on the NT’s YouTube channel for free on Thursday at 7pm.
This will be the second in the two-month series of National Theatre At Home screenings that was launched with One Man, Two Guvnors last Thursday, since when more than two million people have watched Hull playwright Richard Bean’s comic romp.
Cookson’s re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s inspiring Yorkshire story of trailblazing Jane was first staged by Bristol Old Vic in 2015 and transferred to the National in the same year with a revival in 2017.
In May that year, the National Theatre’s touring production visited the Grand Opera House, York, for a week’s run, winning the “Stage Production of the Year in York Made outside York” award in the annual Hutch Awards in The Press, York.
Cookson’s bold, innovative and dynamic production uncovers one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfilment on her own terms. From her beginnings as a destitute orphan, spirited Jane Eyre faces life’s obstacles head on, surviving poverty, injustice and the discovery of bitter betrayal before taking the ultimate decision to follow her heart.
During this unprecedented time of the enforced shutdown of theatres, cinemas and schools in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, National Theatre At Home is providing access to content online to serve audiences in their homes.
Audiences around the world can stream NT Live productions for free via YouTube every Thursday at 7pm BST and each one will then be available on demand for seven days.
Coming next after Jane Eyre will be Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island from April 16 and Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig as Malvolio, from April 23. Further titles will be announced.
Alongside the streamed productions, National Theatre At Home will feature accompanying interactive content, such as question-and-answer sessions with cast and creative teams and post-stream talks. Further details of this programme will follow.
National Theatre Live turned ten on June 25 last year: the date of the first such broadcast in 2009, namely Phédre, starring Helen Mirren. Over those ten years, more than 80 theatre productions have been shown in 3,500 venues worldwide, reaching an overall audience of more than ten million.
NT Live now screens in 2,500 venues across 65 countries. Recent broadcasts include Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy; Noel Coward’s Present Laughter with Andrew Scott; Fleabag with Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Arthur Miller’s All My Sons with Sally Field and Bill Pullman; All About Eve with Gillian Anderson and Lily James; Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo; Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with David Morrissey and Ben Whishaw and Tennessee Williams’s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with Sienna Miller.
Here is Charles Hutchinson’s review of the National Theatre’s Jane Eyre when it played the Grand Opera House, York, in May 2017, published in The Press, York. Please note, the cast differed from the one to be seen in the National Theatre Live performance on YouTube from Thursday.
YOU will not see a better theatre show in York this year, and you won’t have seen a better theatre show in York since The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.
For those who want their National Theatre to be for everyone, and not only for London, then the Grand Opera House is doing a fine job of bringing the NT north, thanks to the pulling power of the GOH’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group.
Your reviewer cannot urge you enough to see Sally Cookson’s remarkable interpretation of Charlotte Bronte’s no less remarkable novel. Yes, some of the ticket prices are on a Premier League scale, but this is Premier League theatre. What’s more, Jane Eyre is a Yorkshire story, back on home turf after Cookson’s premiere at the Bristol Old Vic and subsequent transfer to the South Bank.
Rather than being adapted for the stage with a plodding narrator, this is a devised production of vivid, vital imagination. Michael Vale’s set is rough hewn, gutted to the minimum, with wooden flooring and walkways, a proliferation of ladders, a sofa, and yet it evokes everything of Bronte’s harsh world.
Cookson’s cast is multi role-playing, aside from Nadia Clifford’s Jane Eyre, who never once leaves the stage in three hours (interval aside), changing costumes in full view with the assistance of fellow cast members.
The story hurtles along so fast, the ensemble company runs on the spot between scenes to the accompaniment of thunderous drums, and they even take a mock piddle at one point in the rush to crack on: one of the comic elements to counter the grimness up north.
Energy, energy, energy! And that applies not only to Clifford’s feisty, fiery Jane Eyre, whose accent may curve towards her native North West, but that in no way lessens her performance.
The cast as a whole is magnificent, be it Tim Delap’s troubled Rochester, Evelyn Miller’s triptych of Bessie, Blanche Ingram and St John; Paul Mundell’s austere Mr Brocklehurst and tail-wagging Pilot the dog; Lynda Rooke’s chalk and cheese Mrs Reed and Mrs Fairfax or surely-too-good-to-be-an understudy Francesca Tomlinson’s five-hand of roles.
There is so much more that makes Cookson’s production so startling, movingly brilliant: the sound design of Dominic Bilkey, the inexhaustible movement direction of Dan Canham; the beautiful, haunting compositions of Benji Bower for the on-stage band of David Ridley, Alex Heane and Matthew Churcher, who join in ensemble scenes too and never take their gaze off the action.
Last, but very definitely not least, is Melanie Marshall, the diva voice of Bertha Mason, a one-woman Greek chorus whose versions of Mad About The Boy and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy will linger like Jane Eyre in the memory.