I first saw this National Theatre production of Jane Eyre at an NT Live screening and I enjoyed it immensely, so when I saw that the national tour was coming to Cardiff I knew I wanted to see it again ‘properly’ in a theatre rather than a cinema.
Although I knew what to expect this time it didn’t spoil my enjoyment. The set isn’t what you’d expect for a production of Jane Eyre at all. It’s fairly bare, with many climbing frames, ladders and wooden planks which are used extremely effectively to convey the different locations as well as Jane’s varying emotions. I also liked the soundtrack which included some original music but also some contemporary songs such as Mad About the Boy and Crazy.
The cast is small with everyone apart from Jane (Nadia Clifford) playing multiple characters including Mr Rochester’s dog, Pilot. All the performances were strong and convincing, with some particularly quick role changes.
It’s a funny and emotional production, which stays very close to the novel by Charlotte Bronte, and I love that some dialogue from the novel was used. I do feel however that it is too long. I know that when it was originally performed at the Bristol Old Vic that it was in two parts, which were cut down to one part before going to the National Theatre, but I feel some further small cuts would have been beneficial, as the first half in particular is very long. However, this was an innovative and engaging production and I’m glad I saw it for the second time.
I have never watched the film version of The Graduate so I saw this play with only a very general idea of the plot. Benjamin Braddock (Jack Monaghan) has just graduated from college and is living with his parents. He isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life and isn’t impressed by his parents ideas for his future. During a party at home, he is seduced by a friend of his parents, Mrs Robinson (Catherine McCormack), who is also disillusioned with her life.
The set was fairly simple but conveyed 1960s America well, and projections were also used effectively. The soundtrack also helped to convey the period, with plenty of Simon and Garfunkel! All the performances were good but I found the character of Mrs Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Emma Curtis) quite unlikeable, and I’m not sure whether I was supposed to do so! I also didn’t think there was a lot of chemistry between the leads, but overall I enjoyed the production and I will definitely be watching the film soon.
Casanova is a new ballet by Kenneth Tindall, which tells the story of the legendary Giacomo Casanova’s life which was full of scandal and seduction. It documents his religious beginnings and his multiple careers as a gambler, writer and musician.
As is expected from Northern Ballet the dancing was brilliant and beautiful. The set was also very clever, particularly the use of lighting to depict columns in a church or cathedral, which was very atmospheric.
My only criticism would be that the narrative wasn’t clearly defined. Although I managed to follow the plot in general there were some things that I missed, and only realised after reading a synopsis online afterwards. However, the ballet more than lived up to Northern Ballet’s high standard of productions.
Although we are lucky in Cardiff that we get a lot of high quality touring theatre productions coming here, it is rare that we see such talented names as Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart tread our boards, especially not in the same play. Both actors have recently spoken about the importance of touring theatre with Wales Online. They feel that high quality art shouldn’t be restricted to London, and also mention that touring productions were their main contact with quality theatre as young men, as both are from the North of England. As fantastic NT Live broadcasts and other similar ideas are, they cannot beat live theatre and I hope that live broadcasts don’t mean that fewer productions tour either pre or post West End.
Anyway, to the play itself! I wasn’t very familiar with Pinter’s work beforehand, but I had heard that his plays aren’t particularly plot heavy, which is definitely true of No Man’s Land. Set in the 1970s, two men have met on a night out, and have returned to Hirst’s (Stewart) house. After he and Spooner (McKellen) have chatted for a while, two other men called Foster (Damien Molony) and Briggs (Owen Teale) show up, who claim to be Hirst’s P.A. and housekeeper. They seem sinister and bring a sense of unease to the play which is never explained.
It is definitely an absurdist play and I had more questions than answers at the end. It is however extremely witty and all four actors were fantastic at drawing out the humour from their lines. It must be an extremely difficult play to get right and with other actors it probably wouldn’t be anything special. However, getting to see these two experienced and extremely talented actors, as well as excellent performances from Teale and Molony, was an absolute pleasure. I feel very lucky to have been one of the ticket holders, and as my mum said as we left
“Something to tell your grandchildren!”