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Review: Jane Eyre – The National Theatre At Home

For those of you who are missing trips to the BT and the Oxford Playhouse or perhaps don’t quite understand the Tiger King hype, I can thoroughly recommend National Theatre At Home performances. Although not quite a night out at the theatre, they are well shot and you are often treated to close ups and perspectives of the stage that are impossible to get from a regular seat. This is not my first rodeo with NT Live and I promise that you need not worry about poor quality viewing.

As for this particular production, I can say that it grew on me. I was first struck by the clever staging, which did not fail to disappoint throughout. The use of ladders and multiple levels creates clean lines but lends itself to the overall minimalism. Then the fact that a cast of only 12 actors plays a total of 22 characters, not dissimilar to a Greek tragedy, is noticeable.

The instruments placed almost at centre stage are the first hint that we get about the use of music in this performance. Whilst some may be sceptical, the music creates a fabulous atmosphere, adding tension and causing hair to stand on end. The use of Kyrie Eleison, in light of the earlier comparison with Greek tragedy (‘Kyrie Eleison’ being Greek for ‘Lord, have mercy’) is effective. Choreography of sorts accompanies the music and, though it took a while to become accustomed to it, by the end of the play I grew to enjoy its added dynamism.

It’s certainly intense play, as is to be expected. However, there are moments of light comic relief – the rather human looking dog (watch and you’ll see what I mean) was a personal favourite.

As I said, the performance grew on me. If you are struggling initially, I recommend sticking with it (much like the book). The arrival of Mr Rochester marks a significant improvement. His relationship with Jane is charismatic, and just as I personally would have pictured it while reading. Dare I say it, but his sinister manipulation of the naïve Jane who longs for attention is arguably more evident than in Brontë’s book. It is certainly disturbing.

Mind you, I would recommend settling in somewhere comfortable for this particular production, as it is 3 hours long (do by all means enforce your own interval). This may seem like a long time, but we are, after all, not going anywhere any time soon.

Perhaps Jane Eyre is not your cup of tea – my younger siblings miraculously disappeared when I asked if they wished to join me. The good news is that a new play is streamed every Thursday at 7pm and sooner or later one is bound to come along that does take your fancy. I thoroughly recommend keeping an eye out, never before has so much theatre been so easily accessible.

Jane Eyre is available on the National Theatre YouTube channel until Thursday 16th April, 2020.

Alannah Burdess

Alannah Burdess is going in to her second year, studying Classics at Trinity College. She writes a weekly column inspired by the anecdotes she tells in tutorials to procrastinate actual academic work.