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Watermill Theatre - Jane Eyre

29th October to 2nd November 2018

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Stripped back classic

The Watermill's three-hander delivers the essence of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre in just over an hour

Jane Eyre, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Monday, October 29, to Friday, November 2

It began with a black backdrop and several boxes… the three actors enter and there is a babble of sound as they all speak together until a bell tolls and the story of Charlotte Brontë's best-known heroine begins.

This adaptation by Danielle Pearson, directed by Chloe France, is Jane Eyre stripped to the bone, taking a mere 70 minutes to cover her tale, from miserable childhood and school to her meeting with the man who puts love back into her life, a love that brings heartache, but finally a happy ending.

In an after-show discussion, the audience heard that a technical rehearsal shortly before the opening night ran half-an-hour over the scheduled time, necessitating even more cutting back, but the result was a play that had the audience riveted from start to finish.

Inevitably, some characters were missing, but it didn't matter, for the essence of the story was there and in the safe hands of Rebecca Tebbett (Jane Eyre), with Wreh-Asha Walton and Alex Wilson taking on the other roles between them.

It was a marathon performance from all three, for they never left the stage. Tebbett was superbly cast as Jane, bringing her reserved-but-determined character to life, throughout all that was thrown at her, just as readers of the novel will have imagined her.

Alex Wilson was equally excellent in his several roles, as Jane's early tormentors, the zealous St John in later years, the occasional coachman and, of course, Rochester.

The scene between Wilson and Wreh-Asha Walton that had him standing centre stage conducting a dialogue that moves seamlessly between the different characters they played was quite astonishing.

Wreh-Asha (Arabic for 'living life') Walton was superb in every part she played, from the anxious housekeeper Mrs Fairfax, to Rochester's first wife, the wild, passionate Bertha. This was a quieter portrayal of Rochester's crazed, locked-away wife, with less mad screaming and clawing and more intense passion – even singing – as she sees Rochester again, but Walton made her entirely believable.

With the barest minimum of props, the cast brought Jane's story to life, making this a most enjoyable 70 minutes.