Jane Eyre at Leeds Grand Theatre

Northern Ballet has produced yet another original.  Cathy Marston was commissioned by David Nixon, the artistic director of Northern Ballet, to produce a ballet based on Charlotte Bronte’s iconic novel, Jane Eyre. Cathy has an expansive career and is known for literature interpretive contemporary ballet.  This production follows this acclaimed style with a nomination for the South Bank Sky Arts dance award in 2017.

The first scene we see is when Jane is rescued by Rev St. John Rivers.  The scene, which we are lucky enough to see twice, features my favourite choreography in the whole production when Rivers picks Jane up with the cleverest move, elevating her on his back before scooping her up.

We then see Jane during her recuperation looking back on her life, taken back to her childhood. Dreda Blow was beautiful as the adult Jane Eyre, but personally, I loved Antoinette Brooks-Daw playing the young Jane; she was absolutely mesmerising to watch; the male dancers created the distress and turmoil of her feelings and even in these extremely complex and busy scenes, she held my attention.

Javier Torres & Pippa Moore by Caroline Holden.

Pippa Moore who always adds such depth of character in her performances, was exceptional as the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax, creating the fussiness with little jerky head movements as she walked.

You can’t have Jane Eyre without Mr Rochester, performed by Javier Torres, whose entrance on the horse was cleverly orchestrated and the scene between him and his wife, Victoria Sibson, when Thornfield was ablaze was brilliantly executed. Javier acted both sides of Mr Rochester’s life, one with a suitably lording air and the other as a broken, blind man.

The clever staging really showed off the dancing: all the materials used were soft, adding an almost book like feel to the set.

Javier Torres & Dreda Blow by Caroline Holden.

The production was certainly enhanced by the score. I must be honest, I rarely focus much on the music, often favouring the movement and staging over the musical accompaniment, but on this occasion, it was unavoidable. The music was written by Philip Feeney, who has a long history with northern ballet stretching back for over 25 years and is responsible for six full-length scores for the company.  The music was contemporary in nature to match the choreography; it had great use of some experimental percussion which added elements of enhanced drama, especially during the disturbing scenes with Mr Rochester’s wife. It felt as though each character had a separate, personal instrument and the music in the heartbreaking scene between Jane and  Mr Rochester was absolutely beautiful, filled with emotion and utterly compelling.

If you missed this fabulous performance in Leeds then Jane Eyre is currently on tour across the UK stopping at Belfast Grand Opera House, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, Cardiff New Theatre, London Sadler’s Wells and Salford The Lowry. See northernballet.com for details.

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Ali Wortley

Ali Wortley

From  muddy fields to plush theatres, Ali is a hardened music festival goer and avid opera and ballet enthusiast.

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