REVIEW: Jane Eyre, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until May 13

The cast
The cast
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The set looks like a bizarre cross between an adventure playground and a collection of Ikea outtakes.

But don’t be put off. Above all, it’s a clearing of the decks – and it works wonderfully well, the perfect platform from which to breathe new life, indeed air, into Jane and her tale of cruelty suffered and redemption gained.

The sparseness of the set allows a sharper focus on the story-telling itself, and the cast take us to the heart of Jane’s world in a way that is as compelling as it is skilful.

There are still problems with the production. A running time of three hours verges on the self-indulgent, and while the on-stage mini-band delivering a jazzy backing track works surprisingly well, the frequent recourse to song doesn’t. It interrupts – and it slows the pace too much.

But at its best, this is a rich and imaginative retelling, thanks to a company of actors truly working together as an ensemble.

Nadia Clifford captures beautifully Jane’s suffering, her indignation, her spirit and her inner decency; Tim Delap makes us understand the mistakes Rochester has made and makes us feel for him as he negotiates – often fairly badly – the consequences of those mistakes.

Hannah Bristow as tragic Helen Burns and little Adele among others shows supreme versatility.

But really it is the way that everyone works together that makes this the piece it is. Drop the songs, lose 20 minutes and a tighter focus will take the production to the next level.

Phil Hewitt

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