Sunday, 20 September 2015

Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte
Source Wikipedia
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On 17 Sept 2015 Northern Ballet announced that it had commissioned Cathy Marston to create a new ballet called Jane Eyre based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë to a score by Philip Feeney. The ballet is to be premièred on 19 May 2016 at CAST in Doncaster where I saw Madame Butterfly earlier this year (see Nixon's Masterpiece 22 May 2015). It will also be performed in Richmond upon Thames, Aylesbury, Wolverhampton, Stoke on Trent and Leicester over subsequent days.

Marston was the artistic director of the Bern Ballet between 2007 and 2013 where she created a large number of new works.  One of them is Wuthering Heights which is rather different from David Nixon's version (see Wuthering Heights 19 March 2015).  Marston, like Brontë, was born in the North but she was brought up in Cambridge and London and spent most of her adult life in Switzerland.  She speaks about her life and her work in this video.

For Wuthering Heights Marston commissioned a score from Dave Maric. For her other work by a Brontë sister she will collaborate with a composer who has already written many scores for Northern Ballet (see Cinderella, Dracula and Christopher Gable's Cinderella).  I have had the pleasure of watching him play for Ballet Central when they have visited The Lowry and Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatres (see Central Forward 25 March 2013 and Dazzled 3 May 2015). The set designer is Patrick Kinmonth and the lighting engineer is Al West.  They will have a field day staging the fire.

No casting has been announced yet. I guess Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt must be favourites for Jane and Mr Rochester. Blow and Bateman are also obvious alternates for Jane and maybe Takahashi for Rochester. I can only speculate who will be unfortunate enough to dance poor, mad Mrs Rochester. I can see a nice role for one of the younger dancers in  Helen and two horrible ones in Aunt Reed and the Rev Brocklehurst.  If you have not yet read Jane Eyre you can download it for free in several versions from Project Gutenberg.

Although I think Northern Ballet has quite enough ballets based on GCSE set texts as it is I am looking forward to this work, At the symposium on narrative dance earlier this year David Nixon said that the company was best known for that type of ballet.  Marston describes herself as
"a choreographer, who joins the artistic dots and creates form for stories, emotions and ideas. She gives new perspectives to old narratives; opens original ideas to new audiences and crafts unexpected matches between classical and contemporary art forms."
Elsewhere she adds:
"During her six year tenure in Switzerland directing the Bern Ballett, her British ‘respect for the playwright’ became influenced by the ideas of German theatre and ‘Director’s Theatre’, resulting in her unique, hybrid signature. Lending new perspectives to old narratives in her version of Chekov’s Three Sisters, or in her historically-inspired Witch-hunt: both are danced-stories stripped back to their essence and displaying high quality technique and unflinching expressive integrity."
Let's hope she remembers that the audiences the company is likely to find in Doncaster and the other mid-size venues will not be like those she found in Bern and that most of them will have very fixed ideas about Jane Eyre.

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