Writer: Charlotte Brontë
Adapter and Director: Emma Hodgkinson
The sun is shining and summer is here, which means Heartbreak Productions is back on the road with a variety of open air plays. First up in Sheffield this year is Charlotte Brontë’s classic text Jane Eyre. Heartbreak Productions always set their plays against an innovative backdrop and in Emma Hodgkinson’s adaptation of Jane Eyre, the eponymous character is portrayed as an escape artist at a Victorian carnival.
The play is directed by Emma Hodgkinson, who also wrote this version of Jane Eyre, and her creative vision for the piece really works. The carnival concept and ideas around escape adds an additional layer of tension to the story and keeps the audience drawn in. There were some interesting moments of movement, although it would have been good to see this throughout the show more consistently. It also would have been good if the production utilised more circus elements, considering it was set at a carnival. Kate Wragg’s set is simple but works well and is very well themed. Even though there wasn’t much set depicting different locations, this reviewer never struggled to keep up with what was happening and where, despite not having much prior knowledge of the plot. Libby Esler’s costumes are gorgeous – they fit perfectly with the time period and allow the actors to add different elements as most of them play a large number of different characters.
Faye Lord leads the cast as Jane Eyre brilliantly. She is the only person who just plays the one role and she really gives a strong performance, despite never really leaving the stage. At times, it did feel as though there was a lack of variety in the emotions she displayed but by the end of the show, the audience is definitely rooting for her. Rory Dulku makes an excellent Edward Rochester opposite her, who wouldn’t have looked out of place in Bridgerton. He is charming and his chemistry with Lord as Eyre is lovely. At times, the development of their relationship can feel a little rushed (the whole play is very pacey which, on the whole, is a good thing) but the final scene between Eyre and Rochester is captivating and heart-warming.
Benjamin Darlington gets to showcase his excellent comic timing in his various roles, whilst also having the right level of intensity as St. John Rivers. Samantha Moorhouse brings to life her numerous characters expertly and one can definitely forget that Helen Burns and Mrs Fairfax are played by the same actor. She has a strong stage presence and always had the audience in the palm of her hands. Megan Dunnico completes the cast, making her professional debut in a multitude of roles including Miss Temple, Diana Rivers and Adele. Dunnico is a fantastic character actress: her scenes playing numerous teachers were particularly funny and a joy to watch.
Heartbreak Productions’ interpretation of Jane Eyre is a great night out watching a brilliantly unique production. Will this be Jane’s greatest escape yet? You’ll have to watch the show to find out!
Runs until 12th June 2022, before touring nationwide.