★★★ |  Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre

In an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s iconic novel, Jane Eyre is an orphan who is treated cruelly by her Aunt and sent to an institute for young girls. From there, she moves to work at Thornfield Manor as a governess and swiftly falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester. But the Manor House harbours dark secrets, and as their love grows, Jane’s independence and fiery temperament surfaces as those secrets are revealed.

Trying to cram the complex and multi-layered classic novel into a 100 minute ballet was always going to be a difficult challenge, and one which choreographer Cathy Marson takes on with confidence.  The staging of the ballet itself is inventive, with the use of curtains which are moved and positioned across the stage to effectively and cleverly convey both the confines of Thornfield Manor House and the sweeping moors.

At times the choreography was beautifully done, leaning far more towards the contemporary rather than the traditional, with a lot of delicate lifts, floor work and precise movement, contrasting moments of tender intimacy with complex ensemble pieces. Both Dreda Blow and Javier Torres’ performances were more than noteworthy and displayed their professional competence; whilst overall, the supporting company’s movements were of their usual high quality.

Whilst the technical excellence of the company meant foot sure and stumble-free performances, the production did falter slightly over the issues of narrative and characterisation. The novel itself portrays so many aspects of Jane’s life, and the ballet hits most of the significant events, but with so much to cover within so little time, the narrative felt rushed, superficial and unclear; whereas the characterisations were not as clearly defined as one would hope, leading to further confusion.

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Overall, adapting Jaye Eyre is a huge task and one which is beautifully staged and performed, but the juxtaposition of the contemporary dance and the period setting, coupled with the rushed narrative amounts to a production which is enjoyable, but doesn’t quite come together to be more than the sum of its parts.

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Jane Eyre had its world premiere at CAST Theatre, Doncaster; who hosts a varied range of performances. Visit their website at www.castindoncaster.com for full details. Northern Ballet is currently touring Jane Eyre, with productions of 1984, Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights and Beauty and the Beast to follow later on this year. Visit www.northernballet.com for details.