This collaboration between Oldham Coliseum and ALRA postgraduates brings the classic Charlotte Bronte story of Jane Eyre to life in the fantastic setting of Playhouse 2 in Shaw.  

In Willis Hall’s adaptation, directed by Kevin Shaw, the cast bring to life this enchanting love story set on the Yorkshire moors with passion and vigour. The performers remain on stage throughout and work tirelessly to create the howling winds Bronte describes snaking around Thornfield Hall, the sounds of the birds in the trees, fire and the sounds you would hear in a market place to great effect. 

The entire cast also provider the narration throughout which is a nice touch and prevents there being long self absorbed moments of Jane attempting to deal with the situations she finds herself in and helps to keep the pace of the play moving along at a suitable speed.

Caroline Warhurst’s Eyre captures the innocence yet great intelligence of the character well and visibly diplays much of the turmoil Eyre feels and experiences through the story. Gillian Harker as Bertha Mason is suitably maniacal although at times lacking the subtly this part also requires at times. John Mulleady’s Mr Rochester although amusing and clearly in love with Miss Eyre lacks the brooding acerbic side to Mr Rochester that teases Jane and forces her to speak about her emotions, feelings and desires for the future. He is is quite simply too nice at times and needs to make more of the tortured soul side of the character, particularly in relation to his conflicting emotions about Bertha Mason.

Overall this is a pleasing production and captures well the dramatic love story and journey of self-discovery Bronte wrote. However, the overriding issue with it is that everyone on stage speaks too quickly; losing diction and clarity and causing several performers to trip and stumble over the words.

First night nerves may have played a part however simply speaking a little slower will help prevent this and allow the piece to run smoothly. There are a few wandering accents at times also that can become slightly comical but only minor adjustments are needed to add the final polish to this accomplished production.

- Ruth Lovett

(Reviewed at Shaw Playhouse, Oldham)