Jane Eyre: An Autobiography

Charlotte Bronte, adapted by Dougie Blaxland
Live Wire Theatre
The Rondo Theatre, Bath

Jane Eyre played by Ali Campbell Credit: Owen Benson

Charlotte Bronte is often criticised for a lack of precision in description and for indulging in unnecessary repetition of observation and feeling. Nowhere is this more evident than in the aftermath of the discovery that Rochester already has a wife.

Jane Eyre’s prolonged agonies over her decision to leave Thornfield have alienated many a reader from the heroine’s emotional crisis such that we no longer care about the relationship.

The beauty of Live Wire Theatre’s poignant and poised production is the pace of movement and the succinctness of expression that lies at the heart of this excellent adaptation. This is the way to introduce recalcitrant students of literature to the classics and in particular the Victorian novel.

I was struck throughout by the ingenuity and inventiveness of Jazz Hazelwood’s direction. The stage is divided by a gauze allowing the heroine to move in and out of focus as she journeys backwards and forwards in time through the events of her life. Moreover, the rhythm of the production is spot on, combining quiet moments of thoughtful reflection with the more intense dramatic episodes in which pace and tension raise the stakes significantly.

Ali Campbell’s performance as Jane Eyre is subtle, connected and utterly compelling. She captures the balance of the heroine’s strength of mind and emotional vulnerability with great skill. Because this is a one-woman production she also plays all the other characters, bringing them to life through wonderful variations in voice and movement. Hers is a first-class performance in what is undoubtedly a first-class production.

There can be no higher praise than the observation of a gentleman sitting to my left who said at the end of the show, “wow! That was special; I didn’t want it to end”.

Jane Eyre: An Autobiography opens again at The Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne on September 26 and will be touring venues in the South West until October 19.

Reviewer: Sue Gordon

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