EdFringe 2021 Review: Jane Eyre ★★★

For those seeking some classics from this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe line-up, then Blue Orange Art’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë classic Jane Eyre is set to hit the spot. With strong performances from its cast of four, Jane Eyre is an impressive, ably-performed adaptation staged in an effective and punchy manner.

Jane Eyre is appointed governess at Thornfield Hall where she meets Edward Rochester. Faced with continual barriers and obstacles, Jane and man of the house Edward begin to form a relationship yet spectres from his past rear their head, preventing this union from being anything but straight-forward.

Playing in theSpaceUK’s Bevan Theatre in the Surgeon’s Hall, Jane Eyre adds a variety of creative techniques to ensure that the staging is original and effective. Performers delving into multiple roles, the use of puppets, and interchanging on-stage narrators keeping the 1847 text fresh and well-paced.  

A well-pitched lead performance from Kimberley Bradshaw (Jane) captures the resolve and fight of the strong-willed nature of the Brontë heroine. Complete with Northern accent, Bradshaw successfully explores Jane’s initial hesitation to embark on a relationship with the wealthy Rochester, fighting back his advances, and capturing a sense of period class divides. Given that this is a text with a classic, well-established plot – these skilled turns ensure that we are still on-board for the romantic tension and the will they/won’t they nature of the narrative. Richard Buck is an impressive force as Rochester, gently ebbing the character’s dark secrets out as the narrative progresses, whilst supporting turns from James Nicholas and Kaz Luckins in multi-character roles, keep the narrative moving along swiftly and convincingly.

Director Ellie Goodall cleverly embodies the Gothic nature of the Brontë text throughout with some strong staging decisions such as selective use of lighting – bold reds capturing the flames of Thornfield Hall, veiled costumes exploring ghostly mysterious figures creaking through the manor in the evenings, and getting round the lack of a child actor by casting French-speaking Adèle Varens as a puppet manoeuvred by Nicholas. This latter decision brings some quiet moments of humour to this adaptation, perhaps these verge on more distracting, as we are drawn to the grown man voicing the child under ten years of age.

Whilst devotees of Charlotte Brontë’s work may be craving more depth from this adaptation, Blue Orange Arts do an impressive job bringing the text to life in a punchy, engaging fashion. Capturing the Gothic heart of the text and the key character emotions which have lead to it becoming a classic of British literature, this adaptation of Jane Eyre hits many of the right notes.

Jane Eyre plays until the 14th of August at theSpace at Surgeons Hall. Tickets can be purchased here.