Theatre review: Jane Eyre

An adaptation that captures all the atmosphere and suspense of the original book.

Shake and Stir’s touring production of Jane Eyre is a must for any lover of inspired theatre craft.

This is a truly superb stage adaptation of the novel by Charlotte Bronte, remaining very true to the original tale yet brought very successfully into a modern focus through wonderful writing, directing and performance.  

Admittedly, Jane doesn’t have a great time of it for the most part in the novel. Following a childhood of injustice, suffering first at the hands of her cruel aunt, then at an orphanage, Jane finds employment at Thornfield Hall – the towering mysterious home of Edward Rochester.

As Jane and Rochester become inexplicably drawn to each other, the dark secrets locked within the walls of Thornfield start to unravel forcing Jane on a heart-wrenching journey toward truth and freedom. 

The adaptation of this sweeping novel into a concise, modern retelling is no small feat and Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij must be applauded in creating this work of stage genius. It is infinitely relatable, and a tour de force for the four actors who realise the story before us. Yes there are only four performers bringing this story to life, playing multiple characters throughout, and it is a masterclass of acting skill.

Julian Garner, Jodie Le Vesconte and writer Nelle Lee show any budding performer how to do it right, transforming completely, often in a matter of seconds to create this vast array of unique and believable characters. They are supported impeccably by multi-Aria award winner Sarah Mcleod who performs gorgeous original supporting music throughout, along with her own collection of delightful characters. 

These performers are obviously intimately acquainted with the text and it is easy to engage with the world created by these incredibly talented artists.  

The bleak world of Bronte’s creation is realised to stunning effect in Josh McIntosh’s set, an impressive multi-tiered and haunting framework, full of surprises and impressive special effects. It conveys both an epic scale and evocative sense of place and is lit dramatically by Jason Glenwright.  

This is a truly inventive work, and Director Michael Futcher must be applauded for weaving together the complex tale with such energy and joy. It is atmospheric, amusing and moving and succeeds on many levels. Obviously it will garner a huge schools audience, but the quality of the production and performances would hold its own anywhere in the world. 

Read: Dance review: Now Pieces

This is a touring production and only remains for a few performances in each location. So if it is coming your way, get in quick and don’t miss it. It is a visually impressive, rewarding and immersive retelling, and its message is still very relevant today. Perhaps even more so under the skilful reshaping by this visionary creative team. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Shake and Stir Theatre Company

Riverside Theatre, Sydney
Adapted by Nelle Lee & Nick Skubij
Director: Michael Futcher
Designor: Josh McIntosh

Lighting Design: Jason Glenwright
Stage Effects: Michael Steer @ Live element
Cast: Julian Garner, Nelle Lee, Jodie Le Vesconte and Sarah Mcleod
Original Music written and performed by Sarah Mcleod

Jane Eyre will be performed at Riverside Theatre until 1 September 2022 then will be touring
nationally. For further information

Dennis Clements is a NIDA Acting graduate and has a BA focused on Literature, Theatre and Journalism. He won the Theatre prize in his graduation year from Curtin University in WA. He has extensive leading role performance credits in both professional and community based companies, and has directed numerous productions for Bankstown Theatre Company and Ashfield Musical society. He is a registered Marriage Celebrant if you want to get hitched, and has also reviewed for Australian Stage online theatre magazine for several years.