After Mrs Rochester stars TMA Best Actress winner Diana Quick and is written and directed by Shared Experience joint artistic director Polly Teale, who's previously directed the company's staging of Jane Eyre. The piece, presented in association with Northampton Theatres, opens on 6 March 2003 at the Theatre Royal in Northampton before touring until 24 May to six further venues, including a London season from 22 April to 10 May at the Lyric Hammersmith.
Born in Dominica in the West Indies, the daughter of a white Creole mother, Jean Rhys was sent to England when she was 16. Following a series of demi-monde jobs, she settled in Paris and, with the encouragement of Ford Maddox Ford, began to write. Rhys published several novels and short stories between 1927 and 1939, during which time she returned to England. For the next 25 years, she disappeared from public view until her signature work, Wide Sargasso Sea, was published in 1966.
An inspired prequel to Jane Eyre (written in 1847), Wide Sargasso Sea gave Bronte's madwoman, Mrs Rochester, her own remarkable story. After Mrs Rochester explores Rhys' character through her life, her work and her obsession with the first Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre. It will be staged with Shared Experience's trademark physicality.
Diana Quick, who joins Shared Experience to play Jean Rhys, last year starred in English Touring Theatre's production of Ghosts, which won her both the Barclays/TMA and Manchester Evening News awards for Best Actress. Her screen credits include Brideshead Revisited, The Woman in White, Rasputin, Nostradamus and Saving Grace. She's joined in the cast by David Annen, Sarah Ball, Syan Blake, Hattie Ladbury, Amy Marston, Madeleine Potter and Simon Thorp.
Shared Experience are renowned for their innovative theatre work, in particular their style of embracing new writing (often using devised scripts) and new literary adaptations then combining these with physical theatre. The collaboration between actors, directors, designers and writers has produced a variety of lauded adaptations including Jane Eyre and A Passage to India as well as The Magic Toyshop, Anna Karenina and Mill on the Floss.
After Mrs Rochester is designed by Angela Davies, with lighting by Chris Davey, music by Howard Davidson and movement by Leah Hausman. Following Northampton, it visits Ipswich, Oxford, Ollerton, London, Cambridge and Guildford.
- by Terri Paddock