Doncaster dance world premiere triumph

Victoria Sibson as Bertha Mason and Javier Torres as Edward Rochester in Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre
Victoria Sibson as Bertha Mason and Javier Torres as Edward Rochester in Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre
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Review: Jayne Eyre, Cast, Doncaster

Northern Ballet, Europe's best dance company of 2014 and renowned for their special artistic magic, have done it again. In a sell-out world premiere, the audience were treated to 90 minutes of entrancing dance, 90 minutes of compelling drama and, into the bargain, 90 minutes of exciting music. A great present for Charlotte Bronte's 200th birthday!

The characters spring convincingly to life on stage, thanks to expressive acting and dance skills and a superbly integrated score, which all combine to sweep the flow of narrative along with unflagging momentum.

Lighting and set, all moody, broody browns and gritty greys, evoke a lonely vastness of moorland, while backdrops in the same subdued hues, are repositioned to represent dark interiors with the addition of just the odd chair.

Costumes echo the mood with greys, browns and blacks, lifted to brightness by little Adele's rose pink dress and the fiery red of mad Bertha's. Flames and white mists just wait their chance, of course, to fill the stage.

The young orphaned Jane is danced sensitively by Antoinette Brooks-Daw. Badly treated by her cold-hearted aunt, she's packed off to the cruel, dark confines of Lowood, where Cathy Marston's synchronised, regimented choreography of school life (with echoes of 1984?) contrast with the tender dance of Jane and the dying Helen Burns.

As the older Jane, Dreda Blow has a lot more dancing to do, much of it with Javier Torres as a mighty fine, brooding, world-weary Rochester. They dance their various pas de deux beautifully together. As their romantic reluctance eventually changes from choreographed conflict, struggle and torment and blossoms into tender love, their expressive interaction is thoroughly absorbing and engaging.

A little light-footed humour is injected into the intense, dark narrative by the accomplished Pippa Moore as a scuttling, slightly comic Mrs Fairfax, while lively childhood exuberance comes from Rachael Gillespie as playful Adele.

Abigail Prudames dances a sophisticated, self-seeking Blanche Ingram, Jeremy Curnier a more emotionally detached St John Rivers, while Victoria Sibson has a fine, menacing presence as the incarcerated, demented, barefoot Bertha, her scary shadow dancing spiky and mad as the flames roar.

An ensemble of half a dozen grey-clad males appears to dance with Jane like harbingers of doom and destruction at times of death and desolation, a concept that works well to heighten the mood of tension and upheaval.

Composer Philip Feeney's score is a great triumph and the musicians, under the baton of John Pryce-Jones, do both composer and company proud. Feeney has skilfully,compiled, arranged and blended together compositions of his own with those by other composers, Schubert and Mendelssohn, for example, and - most aptly - Fanny Mendelssohn, who, like the Brontes, was a female artistic powerhouse of the time.

The resultant rich, exciting music works seamlessly to enhance mood and choreography all the way, travelling from heart-swelling melodious harmonies of a more traditional classical sound to more contemporary agitated, hastening, disturbing styles with harsh, grating discords and spiky rhythms. Piano, horn, strings and woodwind come to the fore in turn, providing magnificent auditory treats throughout.

Impact, innovation, excellence. For any fan of the Jane Eyre story, this is a piece of exhilarating theatre not to be missed.

Eileen Caiger Gray

From Doncaster, the production makes its first tour to Richmond, Aylesbury, Wolverhampton, Stoke and Leicester.