I have to admit I was sceptical when I heard singer Andrea Corr was to play Jane in The Gate’s dramatisation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre, adapted by Alan Stanford. Jane is the original Plain Jane and Andrea, as we know, is far from plain. However, I’m glad to say that she does a good job of the role in a very enjoyable production of the play. Corr’s superstar looks can’t be completely played down, obviously, but her petite frame, austere hairstyle and simple, grey dress make her physically credible as the orphan governess Jane. Corr has a slightly heightened style of acting – giddy almost – whereas Jane was a more self-contained, serious character. Having said that, Corr excels when raw emotion is called for in the role – she is genuinely moving in the scene, for example, where she and Rochester are forced to part.
Stephen Brennan is a solid and convincing Rochester, if a tad too old to pass as merely ‘over forty’. His skill as an actor though soon lures you in and you forget that he is meant to be younger. He’s a big man (as Rochester was) and together with Corr’s slightness they certainly look the part together. Brennan delivers all aspects of his role well: Rochester can be gruff but he is also warm and funny.
Deirdre Donnelly is excellent as the older Jane, she narrates the story onstage and she is a deep and emotional actress who brings gravitas to the whole production. Other stand-out cast members include Donna Anita Nikolaisen as Bertha Mason, Rochester’s secret, disturbed wife who is locked in the attic and escapes to do mischief. We are introduced first to Bertha’s eerie laugh and elegant, dance-like movements and, later, to her rage, which Nikolaisen manages to make very frightening. My one quibble would be that the lighting is always dim when Bertha is onstage making it a little difficult to make out exactly what she is up to.
Bruno Schengl’s bare set – with everything painted silver – leaves the actors free to be the main event, and Léonore McDonagh’s costumes are of the period and often beautiful – particularly Jane’s white chemise and lace veil, which point to her innocence and purity. Thankfully some of the book’s sub-plots were left out – Jane’s is a long story – as they play lasts a hefty two and a half hours (with a short interval).
The Gate is an intimate theatre – it has a cosiness that our other Dublin theatres lack and there is always a great atmosphere and buzz there. The audience the night I was at Jane Eyre was very responsive, laughing at all the humorous bits and staying attentive when that was needed. The anticipation for the famous line – ‘Reader, I married him!’ – was like a breath being held and huge applause broke out when Deirdre Donnelly delivered it, with an enigmatic smile.
The play runs until the 15th of January, though the run may be extended, and it makes a lovely seasonal night out when you’re finally sick of all the alcohol and pudding. Tickets can be bought here: The Gate