NODA Review – Jane Eyre

When you stage such a well-known and much loved story as Jane Eyre you have to get it right

and by and large NOMADS managed just that. It is a sweeping novel and demands a big cast and

even doubling or in some cases trebling up in the twenty or more roles it still needed a company

of 12 to pull it off –

Directors John Mitchell and Kevin La Porte’s staging was minimal with a set of black boxes of

various levels and large pieces of furniture brought on and off to give us Jane’s childhood with

the Reeds at Gateshead Hall, her miserable schooling at Lowood, where she eventually becomes

a teacher, the village and home of missionary bound St John Rivers and the focus of the novel,

Thornfield Hall. A whole Victorian world created in little more than imagination, and it worked

well, aided by costumes with a look of authenticity from wardrobe mistresses Frances Watt and

Sarah Smith.

With 31 scenes to cope with the changes need to swift. They were swift. Furniture was brought

on and off quickly but they were also incredibly distracting, particularly when they happened

during a scene. Personally I think the Directors had two choices here to make them less so,

either costume the stage crew or alternatively use the Ensemble players to make the changes.

The lighting on the cyclorama was excellent and extremely effective. Unfortunately this did not

transfer to the front of the acting area where actors sometimes found themselves standing in

the dark. Sound effects were good but maybe fading the birdsong slightly might be worth

thinking about particularly as the scene was dialogue heavy.

The ten-strong ensemble did a fine job of keeping the storyline moving from one area of Jane’s

life to another. As well as playing in the Ensemble all ten played at least two other character

roles. Each had made an effort to create separate entities with good success. Kristopher

Camden gave nicely varied characterisations in his three roles, particularly that of St John

Rivers. Sarah Nolan’s Helen Burns was well done and also the childish Adele, just watch

projection when speaking from up on the “balcony”. Of the many other characterisations I liked

Mary Rivers (April Cook), Mrs Fairfax (Fiona Maguire), Miss Temple (Lory Cosner) Teresa Baron’s

Dowager Lady Ingram, Chris Brighty’s Richard Mason and I very much enjoyed both Steven Fenn’s

old retainer and also his Mr Briggs the solicitor. Both Kate Nolan and Kerry La Porte gave

excellent performances as servants Leah and Bessie.

The well-known love affair between Jane and Rochester requires chemistry to make it work on

stage. I thought Matthew Tatum was very good indeed. His irascibility came through well as did

his impatience although I would have liked to have heard more warmth and tenderness vocally in

the scenes with Jane which otherwise worked very well. Overall this was a good strong

performance creating for us a very believable Mr Rochester.

Charlie Maguire as the title character was superb, starting with her unhappy start in life as an

orphan then a schoolgirl through to her 18-year old adulthood. From downtrodden child to feisty

woman of independent means this was a wonderful portrayal of one of literature’s most loved

heroines.

Congratulations to Directors John Mitchell and Kevin La Porte and all involved. This is a difficult

play to stage but this was an admirable production. One which has determined me to read again

this classic tale of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester and of course the woman in the attic.

Julie Petrucci

Regional Representative NODA East District Four South