Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

April 30, 2006

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Old Footage Comes to Light


In the history of a musical, one can never be sure what will come to the surface and when. Yesterday a 14 minute fragment of footage from the Gordon/Caird Jane Eyre: The Musical came to light, out of the depths of fandom where it had been cherished for several years. Only 14 minutes of the production at La Jolla. this production lies at the centre of the massive reconception of the work, when it transformed from 'musicalised BBC drama' to 'Cliff Notes Jane Eyre.' It is peculiar, and any new material is something special. I do have a full audio recording of the work, but it leaves me with more questions than answers.

This clip includes the Gypsy scene and the proposal. The quality is rather poor but good enough to show some of the staging- the elusive chestnut tree for example. Unfortunately the clip cuts off abruptly before the moment the tree is struck- which is something of a mystery to me; how it was done. I asked the composer, Paul Gordon, about this once. He recalled that there were in fact two trees. That they were rapidly switched and that it was 'very noisey'. The tree was so noisey that it 'not infrequently set off the fire alarms' and the theatre would have to be evacuated! Somewhat too realistic, perhaps!

I think the technical demands of using this effect in turn had an effect on the music. There is a strange bit of music during the La Jolla proposal scene which fans of it have mockingly dubbed 'Rochester Triumphant.' Now, the recording is made from the sound board so the effects are always louder and more obnoxious than they would be in the theatre, but 'Rochester Triumphant' features trumpet fanfares and other effects culminating in a shout of exhaultation from Mr Rochester followed by bells and a choir. It is awful, doesn't appear before or after this stage in the show's development. And I think it is all to cover up the noise of the tree.

For those who are curious, the cry goes something like this:

Let fire burn wild and deep,
Raging skies bleed bitter rain
but there is peace, I have my Jane!

This last image is from the gypsy scene and apparently shows Mr Rochester doing his impression of a matador (just to show off his acting ability, of course! His hair is also notorious in this production. It is quite a hideous Zamorna wig) and there's Jane encouraging this sort of behaviour.

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Filed under: Books,The Professor — by bronteana @ 1:23 pm

Marketting The Professor

I came across this cover for The Professor by Charlotte Brontë and had to pause over it. To me it seems like an odd choice for the book, and yet I can well understand what motives might have gone into the choice. I am not sure, firstly, who this is supposed to depict. Is this supposed to be William Crimsworth? Is this Mr. Hunsden? Why is Mr. Hunsden on the cover of 'The Professor'? It doesn't seem to be of any particular character, I think. But it does seem to say: "tall, dark, mysterious man + Charlotte Brontë novel." And this will draw attention to an otherwise quite passionless book.

I have the penguin edition of The Professor. The cover depicts a rather studious looking man with round glasses, and an uncertain expression. It is a portrait of the artist's brother. He looks like he might be a school-teacher, or a clerk. In other words, he might be William Crimsworth, the professor. When I look at this cover, I think this is the story of an ordinary man which is what Charlotte had tried to do with The Professor.

This Wildside Press paperback cover reminds me of current advertisements for the 1934 Jane Eyre, which is heralded everywhere as a gothic horror classic. Anyone who has seen this film will find it difficult not to laugh at such a statement. It is like a comedy of manners, with a confused quaker living in one of the rooms ("Oh Edward! My husband! You've decided to get married again? [to Jane] Are you one of the guests?"). Here are some of the other covers for the sake of comparison:

April 29, 2006

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Filed under: Films,Interviews,Jane Eyre (1997),Media,Productions,Reviews,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 9:39 pm

Ciaran Hinds on playing Mr Rochester

This is a supplement to a very old post on Ciaran's take on the role of Mr Rochester in the 1997 film Jane Eyre opposite Samantha Morton. As part of a series of posts called 'Actors on Playing Mr Rochester' I had posted some of his rather off-base conceptions of Edward Rochester. Now, it gets so much worse, but we know now why he has such delusions… the poor, poor man:

Firstly, Mr Rochester's mysterious moustache is revealled to be the result of lazy facial hair adaptation from his stint as Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert: "At least half the facial make-up was there. They just chopped bits off the beard willy-nilly."

Hmnnn… *taps foot*

He was chosen for Rochester after the director, Robert Young, heard him play the part on radio. "He told me there was passion in my voice. I couldn't evaluate whether I was right or wrong. I haven't seen any film versions, or read the book. I don't want to because I'd worry about the impossibility of translating it to the screen. I'd wonder why particular scenes are left out, and that would cause frustration as well as getting in the way of the screen writer, who has worked very hard for a long time and knows more about it than me. Sam (his co-star Samantha Morton) has read the book several times, so I developed the character through her. She's only 19 and has an amazing talent. She treated me like her grandfather," he jokes. "The danger is that Rochester has been played so many times I risk being shot down by the critics. But a good story is a good story, whatever, and this is still about two hearts. I hope I can communicate real emotions. I hope against hope sometimes, but there's an extraordinary feeling when you get it right."

Hnnn!!!!! *taps foot faster*

Rochester is, he believes, selfish, arrogant, chauvinistic, bullying, sexist. "You could say he's a man of his time, a rich landowner, with power which he abuses. I wouldn't fancy him, and I wonder why women find him attractive. It's the power, I think. My job is to try and make viewers have sympathy. I hope we show how his heart was hit badly by his first wife. She'd been a bit of a sex siren when younger. How was he to know she was barking mad? Jane is employed as a governess and responds to him like a genuine person. It's not 'Yes, sir, no, sir.' She looks him in the eye and speaks her mind, which is a new experience for him. He finds her fascinating. In the end he says 'We are one soul,' but he can't trust himself to open up completely and admit, 'I love you'. He is callous, too, in the way he flirts with Blanche in order to make Jane jealous".

…*twitch* Perhaps if he had read the book he might have half a clue why women find him attractive? And that Mr Rochester is decidedly …none of those things listed? …*deep clensing breath*

Then he muses on life and love: "Monogamy is a bizarre concept, don't you think?"

…uuuuuurgh! Read it, if you must but… ugh! But… thank you, siansaksa for this. Really. *twitch* I really should talk to Mags at Austenblog about where she got her 'Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness.'

ETA: …one more remark just in case anyone still had any suspicions that this actor had the least sympathy with his character:

His first professional job was as the back end of the horse in Cinderella. "From the back end of a horse to Mr Rochester. You could say there's not much difference. The horse was probably a lot more interesting."

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Filed under: Art,Illustrations,Jane Eyre,Media,Resources,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 3:56 pm

Helen Sewell Jane Eyre Illustrations


These are lovely, and often very interesting illustrations by Helen Sewell. Several of them depict scenes that I have never seen illustrated before. There are a lot of them, in blue and white. I have just uploaded them, but Thisbeciel must be thanked for sharing them with me in the first place! They can all be found on the Brontëana Resource Page, here.

Some of the curiosities include illustrations of the moth in Mr Rochester's garden, and Mr Rochester and Bertha in Jamaica.

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Filed under: Bronteana,Technology,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 10:35 am

Heathcliff Unplugged

I came across this interesting thought this morning:

I can’t wait for Claire’s next installment at the eatery. It’s none of my business, but I am going to try to find out a few things. When, if ever, did they take their iPods out of their ears? Who did it first? Did their eyes meet? Did they ever talk? Was it all they could handle to experience four out of five senses on the first date? Will they go iPod-less next time?

In the meantime I’m going to spend some time wondering about the iconic characters in Wuthering Heights. If iPods were part of their furtive meetings, would the world-famous passion of that story have been worth writing about?

I'm not sure about Heathcliff and Cathy with their ipods out on the moors. It would make things difficult for Jane to hear Mr Rochester, though- unless this explains for once and for all just what 'the voice' was!

And then, reader, I remembered that I had neglected to remove my ipod and this explained the mysterious voice in my head.

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Filed under: Agnes Grey,BBC,Media,Radio,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 10:17 am

Agnes Grey on BBC Radio 7

Thanks to Christina for this find! A dramatisation of Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey can be listed to from the BBC's webplayer, here.

Does anyone else find their synopsis rather odd?

Agnes Grey dismays her family when she decides to earn her own living as a governess. Will her trials lead to true love?

Because we all know that one of the likely outcomes of becoming a governess is to find true love…

April 28, 2006

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Filed under: BBC,Films,Jane Eyre (BBC 2006),Media,Productions,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 2:31 pm

More on Jane Eyre 2006

Thanks to Christina for this interesting find. From the BBC Press Office, where our diligent reader, Alison, first brought us the first image from the production, BBC ONE controller Peter Fincham has a few words about the new production:

This autumn, in the same spirit, we're bringing back another of those iconic brands, Robin Hood. Our Robin Hood won't much resemble the old black-and-white series of the sixties, and nor will you mistake it for the eighties version Robin of Sherwood.Those Spandau Ballet hairstyles will have gone, for a start. But in Robin Hood you have a story, and a world, that's worth revisiting for each generation.

At the other end of the spectrum we're broadcasting an ambitious dramatisation of Jane Eyre. It's shooting now in Derbyshire. I was recently shown some early scenes – they looked ravishing.

As with Bleak House, this is BBC ONE doing something that's in our DNA, something that the viewers almost demand of us – producing timeless, but modern, versions of the classics.

Both these series, by the way, introduce completely new faces to BBC ONE: newcomer Ruth Wilson, who plays Jane Eyre, and Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood. Refreshing the family of talent on the channel, and avoiding the obvious route of playing safe with familiar faces.

There's our third confirmation that the production will be airing in autumn, not winter. It is possible that the production will appear on Masterpiece Theater in 2007.

A brief digest of Bronteana posts regarding the production:

Interview with Toby Stephens (Mr Rochester)
Haddon Hall (location for Thornfield Hall)
Speculation on Mr Eshton

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Filed under: Books,Bronteana,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 10:43 am

Digest of Brontë News


The forcast for today is wierdness with 10% chance of irrelevancy.

The Guardian has a review of Shanghai Nights by Juan Marsé:

Susana is a capricious girl who spends her time painting her fingernails and indulging in wild cinematic fantasies in which Scheherazade and Quasimodo appear in Wuthering Heights.

Hmn.

Here's a book most of us should be able to sympathise with: A Dead Language by Peter Rushforth.

Its heroine, Alice Pinkerton, is the spinster daughter of wealthy suburban New Yorkers. She reads, as Dickens once said, for life; and her obsession with books (with the Brontës and Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe and Tennyson, and so on) comes across, publicly, as a kind of madness, for which her small-minded neighbours hold her up as a curious exhibit.

More news on Emily Brontë the race horse.

Retiring judge Terry Hallenbeck is working through his alphabetised reading list, but somehow missed A… for Anne Brontë.

Lastly, we are told to keep teens occupied this summer by getting them writing:

So, get creative and dream up different ways of engaging that bright spark-propose e-mail, pen-pals, composing a thoughtful letter to Aunt Dorothy for the gift of Jane Eyre last Christmas; maybe even a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about some burning issue dear to your teenager's heart, such as why teens should be allowed to return home at all hours of the night and early morning.

Oh, yes, this will work. M. Heger put Emily to the same task, and the result is not very stimulating (she had to write several fictional letters). I can't imagine she found it enjoyable either. Some of the other advice is sound, though!

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Filed under: DVDs,Films,Jane Eyre,Jane Eyre (BBC 1973),Media — by bronteana @ 12:42 am

Jane Eyre 1973 In Stock!


Surprise! I wasn’t expecting it either, but Acorn Media- the company who first confirmed that the production would be released- has changed the DVD’s status to ‘in-stock’ (and one very happy fan says she was notified today that her copy has been shipped). Astonishing, since it was supposed to be released in the US only in July, and June for the UK! But no complaining, now. The DVD can be ordered here.

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Jane Eyre's 'Southwest Premiere'


It has actually played Texas several times by now, however, people are determined that each show is a premiere nowadays! The Irving Lyric Stage, Irving Texas is presenting the Gordon/Caird musical starting today. Here is what the founding producer of the company has to say about his early impressions of the work:

The book of this musical was written by John Caird, co-director/adapter of the Broadway smash LES MISERABLES. Lyric Stage's Founding Producer Steven Jones first saw JANE EYRE during its Toronto run in 1996. “I loved it. I was in Toronto to see the pre-Broadway engagements of RAGTIME and JANE EYRE. I saw JANE EYRE the first night and RAGTIME the following afternoon. I was so moved by JANE EYRE that I returned to the Royal Alexandra Theatre to see it a second time.” After sold out runs in Toronto and at the La Jolla Playhouse, JANE EYRE opened at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre on December 10, 2000 and was nominated for 5 Tony Awards. Lyric Stage’s production will be only the third professional production since its Broadway engagement.

It is nice to know that others besides myself still admire that early version of the show!

Performances dates for JANE EYRE are April 28, 29, May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 & 13 @ 8:00 PM and April 30, May 7 & 13 @ 2:30 PM. Tickets are $24-$30, with discounts available for students and groups, and are available by calling the box office at 972-252-2787 or CLICK HERE TO ORDER ONLINE. All performances are in the Irving Arts Center’s Dupree Theater, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd. Irving, Texas, 75062.

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