Plain Jane given beau­ti­ful stage treat­ment

Aus­tere but ro­man­tic play will de­light fans of Char­lotte Brontë’s beloved hero­ine

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kevin Prokosh

ASINGLE lit can­dle sits on the oth­er­wise dark Royal Man­i­toba The­atre Cen­tre stage at the out­set of Julie Beck­man’s sat­is­fy­ing adap­ta­tion of Jane Eyre. It is soon picked up by a plain young woman whose in­ter­nal fire will light up the rest of Char­lotte Brontë’s 19th-cen­tury Cin­derella story. Jane, out­fit­ted in an aus­tere grey dress with a match­ing se­vere gaze, ap­pears alone in an un­wel­com­ing world, which, we will soon see, has tried to make her feel small and in­con­se­quen­tial. As any reader of Jane Eyre knows, the world never had a chance of break­ing this maiden’s will of steel. The open­ing-night per­for­mance treated the book’s gen­er­a­tions of fans to not only its deep-dish love story and proto-fem­i­nism, but to the way sim­ple the­atri­cal flour­ishes can en­hance its en­joy­ment. One of the prime plea­sures of Brontë’s novel is its first-per­son nar­ra­tive and direct ad­dress. Beck­man’s ver­sion re­tains Jane’s voice as the char­ac­ter’s nar­rate them­selves, even when they are on their deathbed. Our waifish hero­ine’s early life as an un­wanted, abused or­phan is truly Dick­en­sian and might be re­lent­lessly de­press­ing to watch if not for the phys­i­cal comic re­lief clev­erly in­jected by di­rec­tor Tracey Flye, last seen at the helm of The Penelop­iad last sea­son at the Ware­house. The RMTC pro­duc­tion is rather spare, vis­ually, with any needed prop wheeled onto the stage by a mem­ber of the compact, but se­ri­ously ver­sa­tile, cast of eight. The pa­rade of de­signer Michael Gian­francesco’s pe­riod fin­ery is short but ad­e­quate. The key first meet­ing scene be­tween good girl Jane and the charis­matic bad boy Ed­ward Rochester oc­curs on an icy lane near Thorn­field Hall. Her master Rochester is rid­ing a steed — he ap­pears atop the shoul­ders of two male ac­tors in for­mal suits. It’s no scene from War Horse, but it suc­ceeds in light­en­ing the mood while re­mind­ing us that the­atre is play-act­ing that de­pends cru­cially on the imag­i­na­tion of its au­di­ence. But all that stag­ing will be for noth­ing

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