Based on the life of writer Jean Rhys - who gave full literary scope to the character of the title, first made famous as the "madwoman in the attic" in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre - 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.
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.
Diana Quick, who plays the older 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. Quick is joined in the cast of After Mrs Rochester by Madeleine Potter (Madame Melville, 4.48 Psychosis, An Ideal Husband, as young Jean, as well as David Annen, Sarah Ball, Syan Blake, Hattie Ladbury, Amy Marston 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, several of which have also transferred to the West End.
After Mrs Rochester has just concluded a two-and-a-half-month regional tour, which included a limited London season at the Lyric Hammersmith from 22 April to 10 May 2003. The production is designed by Angela Davies, with lighting by Chris Davey, music by Howard Davidson and movement by Leah Hausman. It's presented in the West End by Ambassador Theatre Group and Maidstone Productions.
Marie Jones' multi award-winning Irish two-hander Stones in His Pockets, which has been running at the Duke of York's since August 2000, will finish there on 12 July 2003 and then reopen at the New Ambassadors, its original West End home, on 14 July (See News, 30 May 2003).
- by Terri Paddock