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Northern Ballet: Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre, May 2016


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Cathy Marston's "Jane Eyre" will have its World Premiere in Doncaster tonight - and, for too many reasons, I can't be there!  I wish her and the Company every success and will finally catch up when they are in Richmond (West London) on 31 May/1 June.

 

If I'm right, this will be Cathy's first major work in the UK since ending her term as Director in Bern - and the Company page for the show is here:

 

https://northernballet.com/jane-eyre?place=homebar

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Not long back in my hotel from the premiere.  I loved it - such an intelligent interpretation of the book.  Cathy Marston can sketch in a character so well, all the dancers brought them to life beautifully.

 

Dreda Blow and Javier Torres were utterly magnificent as Jane and Rochester.

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How did she handle the narrative Janet? Presumably focused on only some episodes/themes-I am especially interested after all the discussion around Frankenstein.

Would love to go but might not make it.

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How did she handle the narrative Janet? Presumably focused on only some episodes/themes-I am especially interested after all the discussion around Frankenstein.

Would love to go but might not make it.

 

 

Very well!  There is  a prologue behind a scrim of Jane wandering along lost and collapsing before she is found and rescued by St John.  As he and his sister's gradually work out her story we see scenes with the young Jane at Aunt Reed's and then the school.  There's a lovely scene with Helen Burns.  You see Jane as a teacher at the school, this is where young Jane is replaced by Jane.  Then you see her at Thornfield with Adele and Mrs Fairfax and Rochester on the fringes.  Act 1 ends with Jane saving Rochester from his bed fire and being a bit attracted to him.  Act 1 is quite busy.  The gentlemen of the company play a sort of chorus - perhaps they are Jane's demons although a couple of chums thought these could better have been played by women.

 

Act 2 starts with a dinner party with Blanche.  It is immediately obvious that Jane has become besotted with Rochester.  This is our first glimpse of Bertha as she watches part of the scene.  Eventually Rochester persuades Jane that he loves her and the wedding is arranged.  Bertha disrupts the marriage and Rochester's secret is out.

 

Jane runs away and that is when St John finds her.  He tries to persuade her to marry him.  We then cut back to Thornfield and there is a very dramatic scene of the house burning and Rochester trying to save Bertha.  Jane comes back to Thornfield and finds the house burnt and Rochester blind.  There is the most beautiful and moving duet for them that ends the ballet.

 

Judith Mackrell has published a review that is far more eloquent than anything I could write:

 

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/may/20/northern-ballet-jane-eyre-review-cast-doncaster?CMP=share_btn_fb

 

The dancers were utterly magnificent in their roles.  Victoria Sibson was just outstanding as Bertha.  Antoinette Brooks Daw brought out all the elements of young Jane's tribulations and her feistiness.  Kiara Flavin was very touching as Helen Burns. And as for Dreda Blow and Javier Torres - it was a tour de force from both of them.  

 

I can't get back to Doncaster but have got some performances booked in June and I can't wait!

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Having got back home during yesterday evening, I've had a chance to catch up - and, on the verdicts thus far, we appear to have a new narrative ballet that succeeds in telling its story.  Excellent!  I look forward to seeing for myself in a week or so.

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There's another 4* review by Donald Hutera in today's Times, only available online behind the paywall.  Headlined "This Jane is anything but plain," the subtitle runs "Cathy Marston's new ballet of Bronte's novel is shot through with emotional truth."

 

And NB that ticket sales for both nights in Richmond next week have increased markedly since the Doncaster reviews began to appear.

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After the very positive reviews of Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre for Northern Ballet following its premiere in Doncaster, I had high expectations of last night's performance in Richmond, the first of the touring run that continues over the next two weeks.  I left the theatre highly satisfied by what I had seen, and the applause at the end suggested I was not alone in that full-house audience.  I am not as steeped in the Brontë oeuvre as some - I can't swear that it was a copy of the book, but I did see a young woman comparing something from a book with friends during the Interval - and, for me, this tale is unlikely to supplant Cathy's Witch Hunt, her final work as Director in Bern, in my memory.  That said, I can readily see why the critics were supportive and, for the record, I have not seen many of the recent narrative pieces for other companies that may have figured in their minds as comparators.

 

The essence of a dense tale was conveyed in 100 minutes of dance, with economy of staging, and a most serviceable through-written score in which Philip Feeney has used his own work to connect pieces by Schubert and both Mendelssohns, roughly contemporary with the story's setting.  It was convincingly put across by the Company - plaudits in particular to Dreda Blow for her adult Jane, Xavier Torres as Mr Rochester, and perhaps an additional garland to Antoinette Brooks-Daw for her younger Jane.  I would happily see it again and can recommend it to others as it tours.

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I haven’t read the book or seen any previous work by Cathy Marston, and it was the recent BBC Radio 4 broadcast of Jane Eyre that led me to last night’s performance. A fabulous performance, both in dancing and acting, on a relatively small stage.

I like the way Cathy Marston portrays emotions through dance in Jane Eyre. I was blown away by Dreda Blow and Javier Torres as the two leads and equally by how the caring atmosphere between the Young Jane and her friend Helen at Lowood School is shown. The otherwise oppressive atmosphere at Lowood School was illustrated very clearly through a series of repetitive movements by the dancers who portrayed the orphaned children, and who were also all wearing the same dress. It all culminated in a very moving final solo by Rochester after he has lost his eyesight in the fire of Thornfield Hall and the subsequent final PDD when Jane returns to Thornfield Hall, she realising that Rochester is blind, he being fearful of the unknown person near him, her moving around him, gently teasing him in doing so it seemed, until he finally recognises her.

The sets were lean and effective. Moving panels allowed for quick scene changes, and a podium at the back provided a second stage.

If anyone is attending the performance tonight and is looking to catch a specific train afterwards – the Northern Ballet web site states a duration of twice 50 minutes plus a 20-minute break. Last night the performance finished more around 9.30/9.35 pm.

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I was fortunate to attend the rehearsal yesterday in the Richmond theatre, when they performed the 'proposal pas de deux' from the start of Act 2. The rest of the rehearsal was in practice clothes, so no photos, but here are some from that pdd. And glorious it was too!

26789235913_b02e839865_z.jpg
Dreda Blow, Javier Torres
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

27120289920_08dc55407f_z.jpg
Dreda Blow, Javier Torres
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

See more...

Set from DanceTabs: Northern Ballet - Cathy Marston’s ‘Jane Eyre’
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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After various comments about Frankenstein being rather old-fashioned it seems strange to be saying that last night I longed for something a bit more classical in the interpretation of another iconic work. Cathy Marston's choreography can be many things - intriguing, affecting, exciting - but (IMO) there is little of beauty in it. I found the economical sets extremely drab and, more seriously, they severely encroached upon the available space on the stage. I found myself thinking back to the simple but beautiful and effective sets and lighting used for Gatsby, a very different story I know but one which is much more episodic than Jane Eyre.

 

The cast was the same as the night before. Dreda Blow gave a towering performance as the older Jane. Personally, I'm with Wayne Eagling on adults pretending to be children and I found the dancer who played Adele rather more convincing than the one who played young Jane. However, I appreciate that it would not have been practical to have child dancers joining a long tour and perhaps future overseas tours. I wasn't won over by the male chorus (the D-Men). It seems from the programme that its creation was at least partly generated by the need to find more roles for the men in the company. However, Marston is not alone in having this problem which often extends to the female dancers in a company when a new full length work is being created (hence the dancing servants and harlots). The last 'pdd', when Jane dances with the now blind Mr Rochester, was very affecting and was probably the highlight of the work for me.

 

Jenny Hackwell of BBC Young Dancer fame was on stage last night looking a confident member of the corps.

 

The theatre was almost full. My husband enjoyed the ballet more than I did after he got past the - to him - puzzling prologue (he had not read the programme at that point). It was nice to chat to Terpsichore in the bar before the performance. I look forward to hearing her thoughts on the evening.

 

I might have to pay a visit to ENB's mega-Lake for a fix of arabesques and classical lines now.

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Well Javier Torres is exactly my idea of Heathcliffe....wish I could have seen the dancing.

 

First off I was intending to go over to Richmond had a problem getting tickets so then thought I'lljjst turn up on the night.

 

Meanwhile a dancing colleague had said how good the Crystal Pite piece was at Sadlers and as I was staying just 15 mins walk from there thought perhaps in the circumstances go to that instead. Richmond is a bit of a trek!

 

As it was I was so tired for whatever reason yesterday ( probably the weather didn't help.....kept thinking it was March) that I didn't go to either!

I would have loved to have seen both of these.....please companies can you do more than two nights at a venue.

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I saw Jane Eyre in Richmond on Wednesday and liked it a lot.

In fact I thought it was the best new work that I had seen from Northern Ballet for many years and blogged and tweeted quite enthusiastically about it for that reason.

 

There was some clever choreography and even cleverer direction, great dancing by Javier Torres, Dreda Blow, Rachael Gillsepie and others.   I also liked the score and designs.

 

Although Richmond suited me as I grew up near there and know the theatre well it is at the end of the tube and not the easiest place to reach. I hope that the ballet will be performed in larger and more accessible theatres on a future tour.

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We saw this tonight at Aylesbury and loved it- so interesting to see another rendition of a 19th century novel, having seen the Frankenstein screening and I enjoyed both equally. I hadn't been blown away by NB Wuthering Heights choreographically so interesting to compare this to that as well- I much preferred the dance content in JE as well as the sets for JE which were minimalist and simple but unlike WH I felt really worked.  Especially impressive I thought were the pas de deux between Jane and Rochester, and the use of the foot movement in which he repeatedly bars her way out. This, together with the prologue of men trapping her really brought out the feminist tone of the novel for me. The use of small foot movements were also interesting in Blanche Ingram's steps which cleverly made her seem like one of life's really annoying, snobbish and irritating people! Also worth mentioning Adele- brilliant dancing and choregraphy which were extremely funny. I absolutely loved the regimented movements for the Lowood pupils- you could see them being schooled into knowing their place in society.

 

The D-men- much as I liked the message of the Prologue, and the idea of making this a psychological drama- I'd have integrated them more and dispensed with the Prologue - I think they were a good idea but maybe over-used. If you got rid of the Prologue and scaled their scenes down, you could have included two elements which would have worked really well- the Red Room scene where Aunt Reed shuts Jane up near the beginning - a great opportunity to use those D-men as Jane confronts her psychological fears- as well as the idea of red and fire which ties in with Bertha and the later fire- and the section of the book where Jane becomes telepathically aware of Rochester's suffering- a pas de deux with him behind a screen at the back maybe where they can't touch.

 

Loved the arrangements of the music which were pitched perfectly to the chamber feel of the whole work with its stress upon intimate emotion. Definitely one I'd love to see again.  

Edited by pianolady
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Terpsichore, I always find it easier to get to Richmond by South West Trains rather than by Tube - as you say, it is a rather long way round.

 

I would normally go on the overground via Waterloo but I was leading an all day seminar at an hotel in Pepys Street the next day for which I had to carry heavy equipment and papers as well as dresses, bags, footwear etc for a night at the ballet and a day's business. I did not want to hump all my luggage between the Piccadilly and Northern Lines at Leicester Square or some other interchange and then again at Waterloo. It was so much easier to stay on the Piccadilly line to Baron's Court and simply cross the platform.

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I saw their Jane Eyre at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton. Having neither read the book or indeed the program notes before seeing the production, I really had very little idea as to what was going on during the performance. I did not know who any of the characters where or their relationship to each other, so I think it was a very poor choice for a ballet. It's not all bad though.

There are some really excellent moments. I was very moved by the bed pdd and the bullying scene was well done, even though I didn't know who was being bullied.

Philip Feeny's score is wonderful. It's quite avante garde and I would like to hear it again. I thought the set was very clever. It's amazing what you can do with a raised platform and some curtains.

The Grand seats about 1200 and I am happy to report that there appeared to be very few empty seats.

I haven't seen Northern Ballet since the did Dracula in 2000 - I must not leave it that long again.

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I was luck to catch three performances last week - 2 in Stoke and the final one of the season in Leicester on Saturday.  I hadn't seen the production since the opening night in Doncaster.

 

I was struck yet again by what an intelligent and clear telling it is of Jane Eyre.  One thing I love about Cathy Marston's choreography is her ability to flesh out a character with just a few steps and gestures.  She really gives the dancers a solid base on which to build up their roles.

 

On Tuesday evening I finally got to see Hannah Bateman as Jane and she was just glorious.  Even the tiniest of gestures and facial expressions had meaning.  Javier Torres was born to dance Rochester and has deepened his characterisation even more since the opening night in Doncaster.  Together they were breath-taking especially in the final incredible "blind" duet.  Jeremy Curnier again was outstanding as St John, really bringing out the coldness of his character.  Vicky Sibson gives an incredibly dramatic account of Bertha and Jessica Morgan is subsumed into the role of Grace Poole.  I love Pippa Moore's fussy choreography as Mrs Fairfax.

 

On Wednesday evening I saw Abigail Prudames and Mlindi Kulashe as Jane and Rochester.  Abigail was sublime as Jane and Mlindi showed yet again what a wonderful actor he is becoming.  Sean Bates was very effective as St John.  Marianna Rodrigues was very dramatic as Bertha.  Jessica Morgan was Mrs Fairfax and the choreography looked very different on her as she is so much taller than Pippa.  All in all it was a super performance.

 

The final performance on Saturday night, with Hannah Bateman and Javier Torres leading the cast was one of those very special performances that comes along once in a while and stay with you forever.  I couldn't stop myself from leaping to my feet at the end, as did many more people in the audience.  

 

Saturday night also marked Jessica Morgan's final performance with the Company.  She has always been a wonderful dance actress and has also been fabulous in Kenneth Tindall's works.  I particularly loved her interpretation of Myrtle in Gatsby and Mrs Fairfax in Jane Eyre.  Very best wishes to Jessica for the future.

 

I do hope Jane Eyre is soon back in the repertoire.

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