Over time, historical works of fiction have gone through the wringer of theatrical and cinematic adaptation; some adaptors deciding to perform an autopsy on the original work, taking away their favourite pieces and leaving what they disliked, others moving the work to another time period. However, in KCL's Literary Society production, the simplicity of the adaptation works in its favour. With the story and source material relatively simple, the cast and crew were able to focus on other facets of production, such as the formation of a fantastic cast, music and set design, although some choices, like the lighting, were sometimes confused.
Every actor brought gravitas, comedy and emotion to each scene where it was required, especially Faisal Shaker who as Mr. Rochester’s dog, brought a fun energy to the piece. His accent work was similarly well done, with no character sounding the same as another. At points it may have been over the top, but to me its absurdity made it all the more enjoyable.
In the lead roles, Victoria Baines and Jonathan Ross played the eponymous Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Both performances were exceptional and their budding romance was very convincing due to their chemistry. Jane was able to portray the tragedy of her character very deftly; however, the character suffers from problems in the source material, including Jane's seeming unlikability. She is a strong character who has overcome a torrent of tragedy, leaving her prickly and judgemental. Her rudeness, as Rochester is attempting to pour out his heart - is irritating, but understandable. This is not a problem in the play, as Victoria is able to overcome most of this unpleasant trait through her portrayal Charlotte Bronte's character.
The rest of the cast were similarly excellent. I'd especially like to highlight Romane Bokkerink, who portrayed Eyre's hidden and buried wild side. Though it appeared she was typecast as the crazy and violent character, as she was also playing Bertha, she hit both roles out of the park. The repressed personality of Eyre and the tragedy of Bertha were excellently portrayed through the play.
The minimalist set design allowed for a focus on the characters and their movements, rather than on the areas surrounding them. Furthermore, the adaptation does a great job of taking the novel’s narrative and compartmentalising it. Reciting the tragic life of Jane Eyre and her rise to fortune in a well-paced, succinct manner.
To be critical, the choices of lighting within the piece were often striking, but sometimes confusing. The scenes would change from red, to blue and others, from the normal lighting. The blue, seemingly, represented the sequences as Jane would monologue and red representing anger and scenes of conflict. However, I say “seemingly” as it was not too obvious. I’m not stating symbolism should be overt, but at times the lighting seemed to not represent anything other than a neat colour choice. While in truth a striking image, with the whole set flashed red, it lacked substance and relevance.
Overall, the adaptation of Jane Eyre by the KCL Literary Society was a well-produced and fantastically acted piece of work. Though some technical choices appeared confused, the finished product was a well-polished piece of theatre.