Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Jane Eyre Second Time Round

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Northern Ballet Jane Eyre 13 April 2018, 19:45  Lyceum, Sheffield

The first time I saw Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre I described it as "one of the best new ballets I have seen all year from any company and it is the best new work from Northern Ballet for many years if not decades" (see Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016). I saw it again in Sheffield on Friday and I am still of that view.

Jane Eyre is a very long read.  It consists of 38 chapters and was first published in 3 volumes.  There is a good summary of the story in WikipediaAlthough it cannot have been easy to compress a book of that length into a two act ballet, Marston preserved its essence in her librettoMost of the characters of the novel are reproduced in the ballet.  Marston has also invented a set of male characters called the "D-men" who are danced by some of the company's most experienced members. They haunt Jane at critical moments of her life.  In that regard, they perform a role similar to that of the chorus in Greek drama.  I noticed a similar use of such characters in The Suit (see Excellence - Ballet Black's Double Bill 17 March 2018).

Many of the dancers I saw at Richmond in 2016 were in Friday's performance in Sheffield though some had different roles. Dreda Blow danced Jane as an adult on Friday as she had two years ago. Jane as a girl was danced by Rachael Gillespie who had been Adèle last time.  Victoria Sibson, who had been Bertha Mason in Richmond, was Aunt Reed in Sheffield. However, there was a different Rochester.  Joseph Taylor performed that role on Friday.

Each and every member of the cast performed well.  Blow is the only Jane I know.  The last time I saw her I wrote:
"Blow is a fine dancer but I have never seen her dance better than she did tonight."
I can only say the same about her performance on Friday.  Taylor delivered a confident and convincing performance as Rochester.  Gillespie is one of my favourite dancers in the company and her portrayal as the young Jane did not disappoint me.  However, the performance that impressed me most in Sheffield was Mariana Rodrigues's as Bertha.  She makes only a couple of brief appearances but her role is a key one.  The attempted bigamy scene has a lot in common with the mad scene in  Giselle and if she is ever cast as Giselle I should be very interested to see what she makes of it.  I think she is an artist to watch and I will make a point of looking out for her.

Once again I admired Patrick Kinmonth's sets - especially the Pennine backdrop with its dry stone walls. Also his costumes, especially Bertha's ragged dress.  The more I hear of Philip Feeney's music the more I like his work. He also wrote the score for The Suit  which was another successful collaboration with Marston.

I concluded my review of the performance in Richmond with the hope that the ballet would be revived as I had hoped to see it again.  I am very glad that Jane Eyre is back in Northern Ballet's repertoire and that it has been staged in major venues this time.  I am particularly glad that it is coming to the Wells and Lowry for I think it will do well in both of those theatres.

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