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Adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel by Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij and directed by Michael Futcher, Shake and Stir Theatre Co.’s production of Jane Eyre is everything a Gothic play should be: gritty, suspenseful and utterly captivating from start to finish.
After a childhood marred by the loss of her parents and living with an aunt and cousins who do not love her, Jane takes up a governess position at Thornfield Hall where she meets and falls in love with Mr Rochester, a gruff older man with a dark secret that threatens to ruin the life she has created for herself.
At its core, Jane Eyre is the story of a woman refusing to accept a life ruled by others or to conform to societal expectations in a time when women didn’t have much say in the matter. She is a feminist icon in the literary canon, and one of my favourite characters of all time.
On the night I attended the show two swings, Maddison Burridge and Hilary Harrison, performed the characters of Jane Eyre and Mrs Fairfax (and others) respectively; both women gave stellar performances, a testament to the quality of the whole cast. Burridge was at once raw, vulnerable and fiercely independent as Jane Eyre, Harrison sweet and endearing as Mrs Fairfax. Julian Garner as Mr Rochester masterfully captures his character’s rocky and tumultuous journey from self-enforced isolation to finding love with Jane, and has great chemistry with Burridge in their many scenes together.
One of the greatest triumphs of this adaptation is its ability to bring key tenets of the Gothic story to life. An original score performed live on stage by ARIA Award winner Sarah McLeod will make you feel all the feelings, taking on the character of the turbulent weather and the multiple haunted locations of the story to elevate each and every scene. Jane Eyre’s prominent internal thoughts and musings are incorporated through clever scripting, often involving an older or younger Jane speaking to her in her most pivotal moments. Striking lighting combines ominous red hues with cool blues and whites to create supernatural scenes that might just convince you of the presence of spirits in the theatre.
All of these elements are presented to us on a stage that’s pretty pared back in comparison; the set is comprised of steel frames connecting multiple platforms spanning floor to ceiling, which gives the production the height and grandeur it needs without being overbearing when combined with the dramatic lighting, music and occasional pyrotechnics.
It is no easy feat to bring such a classic novel to the stage in a way that pays homage to its history and place in the canon and invites new audiences in – but that is exactly what this adaptation succeeds in doing. A stunning play in terms of production and plot, it’s one to see.
Wine Pairing | Semillon
This is a varietal often knocked for being dull or repetitive – a plain Jane, if you will – when it’s anything but! Despite being most commonly associated with Sauvignon Blanc blends, Semillons can also be delicious on their own.
My Pick: Meerea Park Hell Hold Semillon 2018, Hunter Valley, NSW
As well as its suitably macabre name, Meerea Park’s Semillon features a solid acidity foundation that allows for some super quirky tasting notes including citrus, sour lollies and herbaceous flavours such as lemongrass. The acid combined with a high alcohol content also means this wine can be cellared for up to a decade.
Jane Eyre National Tour, Shake & Stir Theatre Co. | Tasting Notes
|Aussie Season||Multiple Dates and Locations, produced by Shake & Stir Theatre Co.|
|Writer||Adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel by Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij|
|Theatre Type & Genre||Gothic, romance|
|See it if you like||Classics, adaptations of novels,|
|Other Info||Special deals are available for school groups|
|Criteria for Wine Pairing||Diversity of flavour, a mix of fruit, minerality and vegetal elements|