+3 Review: Jane Eyre: An Autobiography (Assembly Roxy: 4 – 29 Aug. 1115. 1h30m)

Image. Dyad Productions.

Image. Dyad Productions.

“Rebecca Vaughn’s solo work is outstanding.”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars Outstanding

” ‘… and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader, you must fancy you see …’  me, plain and plain-spoken Jane Eyre, on stage for ninety minutes as I tell you the story of my life.”

We have an autobiographical telling, dramatic and full of character, with nothing of substance left out and everything of significance retained. From the window seat in the breakfast room, aged 10, to the parlour of Ferndean Manor, some nine years later where the blind Mr Rochester – he of the ‘brow of rock’ – reclaims his darling Jane. Writer Elton Townend Jones calls his work ‘an impressionistic adaptation’ of Charlotte Bronte’s book. Well, fair enough, along with the charged immediacy of the scene(s) comes the solid narrative, fused and monumental.

Performer Rebecca Vaughan is definitely impressive. She is Jane, of course, but she is also everyone else – except the source of crazed laughter from the attic. There is, inevitably, a cartoon Mr Brocklehurst, who might as well be the grim progenitor of today’s (English) free schools. Mr Rivers, impossible for the irreligious to figure, is left pallid and decent. Mr Rochester is gruff and always amused by Jane’s frank determinations. As Jane, Vaughan is upright and indomitable, which makes her excitement and frailty when it comes to the love story just a bit tricky. However, if romance is your thing, then Jane’s virtuous path to happiness is surely realised.

What makes the novel probably undoes its efficient telling. Jane ‘hadn’t intended to love [Rochester]’ but does and she certainly never expected riches but she gets them. That, to use Bronte’s unlikely word, is a ‘stunner’. The stage-succinct explanation of her 20K inheritance does advance a parallel narrative that gives Jane an easy living that is more assured than the trials and anxieties of any self-respecting literary heroine should be. I wondered, listening hard, whether her assessment of Position, Fortune, & Age in the marriage stakes – our century’s life-style choices – was beginning to count for more than love, which (I concede) is rather uncharitable.

Dyad Productions have worked the text of Jane Eyre to lucid and creditable effect and Rebecca Vaughn’s solo work is outstanding. I just found the whole piece satisfying and accomplished rather than remarkable or radical, which the novel is.



Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 7 August)

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