Tucked away in the heart of the lovely , historical borough of Islington is the Rosemary Branch Pub and Theatre. It is one of those places that has its own character from the little pile of books they are selling for 50p to the quirky décor; it just all feels so English. So, what better place to put on one of England’s most beloved tales than in one of its most quintessentially English establishments? Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre has been beautifully adapted and directed by Bryony J. Thompson with an outstanding cast who make this old classic more watchable than ever.
As the story goes, an orphaned Jane Eyre is sent to a charitable school in Yorkshire before taking up a governess position at Thornfield Hall. She is in charge of teaching Adele, a young, intelligent French girl who lives at the estate and is the child of Mr. Rochester’s ex lover, Celine who abandoned the child. Little does Jane know that within the walls of this big house lies a dark secret. Jane then has to come up against all sorts of obstacles as well as her deep and ever growing feelings for her master.
The stage was left pretty minimal save for a few wooden chairs and some steps at the back. The entire set was painted white and all the actors were dressed in white as well. With such a simple set design, the audience has to be pulled in by the performances and I certainly felt hoisted into their world. The performances across the board were engaging and heartfelt. It was also impeccably cast with Helen Russell-Clark giving a stunning performance as Jane. Her Jane is vulnerable, innocent but also played with conviction which had me mesmerized throughout. Her connection with Mr. Rochester played by Rob Pomfret was palpable and believable.
The supporting cast was strong as well. Katy Daghorn played an exuberant little Adele and then slipped into her other older characters seamlessly. This was something the entire supporting cast managed to do, moving in and out of their various roles effortlessly. Francesca Binefa played Blanche Ingram with great comedic timing as she snared at Jane and Mr. Rochesters’ exchanges.
She would then slip into the softer Diana Rivers who shows Jane great affection when she arrives tired and emaciated at her home. Lainey Shaw did a wonderful job in the roles of Mrs. Reed, Mrs. Fairfax and Hannah giving each one their own distinct voice as well as accents. Ludovic Hughe’s played a tightly wound St. John Rivers who showed great vulnerability when he eventually asks Jane for her hand in marriage but is rejected. You could feel the genuine disappointment and there was a great sense of genuine fondness between them.
This love story made my heart beat throughout the adaptation and it conjured up the same feelings of curiosity and anticipation that kept me on the edge of my seat when I first read the novel many moons ago. It is an enjoyable, heart-warming and captivating night out at the theatre.
Until 5 May at The Rosemary Branch Theatre
Web site and Tickets
020 7704 6665