Leeds-List - Leeds' ultimate magazine and guide

Review: Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre

· Ali Turner · Culture

From frenetic child to graceful governess, Jane Eyre translates rather well to the stage.

Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre

Cathy Marston has taken on a classic in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, but does it live up to the legend?

Jane Eyre is a tale of grief, passion and jealousy, but here, it’s also very much a story of growing up. Marston shines a light on ‘Young Jane’, telling her story in pinpoint detail through her choreography. After her parents die, she goes to live with her aunt, a prim and proper woman who’s all elegance and pointework – Jane, in contrast, is frenetic and chaotic, her movements almost jarring.

She fights with her cousins, she rebels against Reverend Brocklehurst’s strict rule and in the midsts of the conformity of the orphanage, she stands out as someone who doesn’t quite fit in. Her friend, Helen Burns, seems to calm her soul, but when she dies, Jane goes right back to her unruly, energetic style. For me, this was the highlight of the ballet – Antoinette Brooks-Daw’s frenzied, kinetic movements were mesmerising and it felt a million miles away from that stereotypical ‘idea’ of the ballet we all have in our heads.

Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre

Credit: Caroline Holden

It’s all change as she moves from orphan to governess though – Brooks-Daw trades places with Dreda Blow, but it’s not just the dancer that changes, it’s the choreography too. Gone is the wildness of her youth, replaced instead by a graceful woman who’s almost timid.

Marston tells the story through her characters. They each have their unique style of movement that gives you a glimpse into their inner psyche. Adele Varens is a young and bubbly child who never stops moving, something that comes across best as she sits in amongst the dancers, bouncing in excitement. Mrs Fairfax is a ditzy housekeeper who’s easily carried away and never stops faffing.

Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre

Credit: Caroline Holden

Rochester is dark and brooding – with a pointed toe he demands that Jane stay put, but despite his arrogance and the fact that he goes all out to make Jane jealous, he’s not the kind of character you dislike. Javier Torres was the perfect choice for this role – he’s at his best in these dark, complex roles.

But, and I say this with heavy heart, Bertha Mason didn’t quite meet expectations. Marston set the bar so high with Young Jane that I expected Rochester’s deranged wife to be a whirlwind of spasmodic limbs, and in a way she was. The problem came from her dress – it gave you an instant image of a fallen woman, but it also covered too much of her body, hiding the beauty of her movements, so Victoria Sibson’s footwork was lost on us.

Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre

Credit: Caroline Holden

That was the only real disappointment in this ballet though. The time positively flew by and it’s fair to say there was never a dull moment – which was partly down to the fact that the ghosts of Jane’s childhood followed her everywhere she went. The dancers became physical representations of her past, and these scenes, as Jane moved from one lift to the next in quick succession, changing partners at every turn, were some of the best in the entire ballet. Here it wasn’t so much about characters, as emotion, and it was beautiful to watch.

Marston has done a very good job of capturing the complex characters and emotions from Brontë’s classic, so if you’re a die-hard fan of the book, go see the ballet, you might be surprised at just how much they manage to say through dance.

Jane Eyre is showing at Leeds Grand Theatre until 14th March 2018. Tickets start at £22.