DUBLIN’S CITY Theatre Company are in the Town Hall next week with a dynamic new staging of Charlotte Brontë’s timeless classic, Jane Eyre.
Director Michael McCaffery’s adaptation employs a virtuoso array of theatre styles, tapping into the rich theatricality of Brontë’s original and expressing it through live performance, music, video, and multi-media presentation.
A company of six join Jane Eyre to bring her ‘autobiography’ to life in a world that crosses Das Cabinet des Dr Cagliari with the Box of Delights, revisiting both the novel and its sources.
Brontë’s love story with a difference takes an unconventional heroine - the plain, unremarkable governess Jane Eyre - and charts her growth to passionate, independent woman as she pursues her dream of marrying the mysterious and tempestuous Edward Rochester.
Jane Eyre is a story of love and madness, passion, retribution and self-fulfilment. Set against the tumultuous landscape of the Yorkshire Moors, this Victorian masterpiece of mystery and suspense is also a highly personal account of one woman’s victory over the prejudice and discrimination which face her and thousands like her.
Acclaimed and decried in equal measure when it first appeared, Jane Eyre was a sensation. Its outspoken attitude towards society, religion, and sex was revolutionary, while the rich mix of melodrama, Gothic horror, and tempestuous romance makes for a theatrical tour-de-force.
Brontë’s novel has inspired numerous adaptations for both stage and screen. McCaffery sums up its enduring appeal.
“It’s like a fairy story, you can view it as a version of Cinderella,” he says. “You have the unregarded girl who everyone is horrible to but ultimately she rises from the ashes and marries her ‘prince’ – in this case, Mr Rochester. It was also one of the first novels to put a woman at the centre of the action and Jane shows she can be strong and dictate her own destiny, when she does get married its very much on her terms. It’s just a fabulous story with all these dramatic Gothic elements.”
McCaffery goes on to explain how he chose to approach the material in this new staging.
“As I was reading the book it dawned on me that the most important relationship in it isn’t between Jane and Rochester, as you might initially think, but between Jane and the reader,” he says.
“It presents this very personal account of her life, delivered directly to the reader - everything that happens in the book is seen from Jane’s viewpoint. What we’ve done is deploy the actors and elements like video inserts etc to come together to help Jane tell her story onstage. I wanted to get away from the kind of naturalism we’ve become familiar with through TV adaptations of 19th century novels and find a much more theatrical form of storytelling for the material.”
McCaffery also emphasises the importance of religion within the story.
“The novel presents two conflicting views of religion,” he says. “You have the Calvinist predestination view of the world which says that most of us are already damned, and against that there’s a more benign view which believes in forgiveness and redemption, and which is linked to the struggle for personal freedom.
“It’s easy for us, living in a secular age to forget just how big a role religion played in day-to-day Victorian life. Charlotte Brontë herself married a clergyman for instance and the novel engages in a serious debate about the good and bad points of religion.”
In a talented cast, the role of Jane is taken by Lorna Quinn while Philip Judge plays Mr Rochester.
Jane Eyre is at the Town Hall from Tuesday September 30 to Thursday October 2 at 8pm nightly. For tickets contact the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.