Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

September 16, 2006

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First Fan-Review of Jane Eyre 2006


Laura wrote in to Bronteblog where she had won tickets to the screening this evening of the first two episodes of the BBC series. There isn’t much that we did not surmise from the preview clips so far, but there are some particular observations of the acting of the leads:

The foremost thing I took away from the preview was that Ruth Wilson was an absolute delight as Jane. She brought a lot of natural charm to the part and although her performance was subtle, the viewer is left in no doubt of what she is feeling in each scene. In my eyes, she has provided the best performance yet for this character. Ruth’s Jane is full of humanity, soul and honesty and she instantly wins your sympathy.

[…]

Mr Rochester is one of my favourite characters; he is enigmatic, charming, unpredictable, outspoken and sometimes even manipulative. As you all know, there are many layers to his persona, but Toby seems to have struggled with capturing all of these idiosyncrasies and instead gives (in the first episode at least) what seems to be quite a black and white account. When not being overly gruff, his manner often seems affected and it even comes across that he is not taking the character very seriously…He improves, however, in the second hour, helped along by the fact that he smirks a lot less and is perhaps not quite so sarcastic. It also doesn’t do any harm that he is, indeed, partially shirtless in one of the scenes… (Mr Darcy, eat your heart out 😉

The rest of the review is available here. The rest of the review harmonises well with my own opinions on what I have seen as well. Rochester is an incredibly complicated character, and I truly pity any actor who takes him on. It doesn’t sound like he fares too badly, however. It sounds like he has given the character scope to develop and probably that would continue into the remaining episodes. I don’t recall coming across a predominantly sarcastic protrayal, but the sarcasm is a part of the character (often describes in the novel as sardonic).

May 6, 2006

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"Faithfulness to the novel and a perfect cast make this BBC adaptation the ONE"

-From the DVD for Jane Eyre 1973.

About a dozen readers have now recieved their copies of the BBC's 1973 Jane Eyre out on DVD. This is the American edition, of course, although the UK edition should be along shortly. I think we have answers to all of our questions now. The slight time difference might be the result of there being no photo gallery in the US edition. The 'lost' first episode, however, is all there. This is all coming in now from reader reports, since my copy is probably on a nice week-long trip to Toronto at the moment. The smaller edits also have been restored, so those who saw the tape which was run in Canada and New York will still have a treat seeing these deleted bits, like the slightly extended Hay Lane scene.

Thisbeciel has made screencaps from the DVD's filmographies. It looks beautiful! If you click on the images you can see them full-sized.*

*I have removed the images because the demand was so great that Thisbeciel's website crashed a few times today.

May 5, 2006

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Filed under: Bronteana,Drama,Fun,Jane Eyre,Media,Reviews,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 12:22 am

Brontë News

Jane Eyre is playing London: "Jane Eyre'' plays from May 9 through July 9 at Trafalgar Studios. Tel. (44) (870) 060-6632 or click http://www.theambassadors.com.

'Bookslut' has another review of The Brontë Project: A Novel of Passion, Desire, and Good PR.

This is probably a better idea than encouraging your children to write fictional thank you letters for fictional gifts of Jane Eyre: a mother-daughter book club!

The Chocolate War, The Outsiders, and The Secret Life of Bees are novels written by contemporary writers, but the group has tackled classics that include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Jane Eyre, as well.

"It's not hard to read a book each month," said Katie [aged 11], "but Jane Eyre was so long."

Author Sara Paretsky talks about her attraction to a certain breed of heroine: Women like Jo March of "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott and the title characters of "Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maud Montgomery and Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre"
"Heroines who engage me had to suffer before they succeeded," said Paretsky.

And lastly, Yorkshire has the dubious destinction of being #4 on a list of places to avoid visiting
Lovely scenery, but there are people in the West Riding who have lived there since 1106 but are still not accepted as true Yorkshiremen because rumour has it that their mother bought clogs from a pedlar who had a cousin in Prestbury, thereby blighting the bloodline forever. They make Londoners look like Hawaiian greeter girls. Plus you can't stray within 50 miles of Haworth sodding Parsonage without being assailed on all sides by Bronte bilge. The Branwell Tea Shoppe. The Helen Burns Sunbed Centre. Mr Rochester Opticians. Grace Moon Loft Conversions. What a load of Wuthering Shite.

I cannot but laugh at the thought: who the deuce is 'Grace Moon'? They… did at least inadvertently promote two other places associated with the Brontës: The Peak District, home to at least one of the halls said to have inspired Charlotte's description of Thornfield, not to mention the location for now two version of Jane Eyre. Also, the Mourne Mountains, in Northern Ireland. Visible from Patrick Brontë's birthplace. So, it's not all so bad? …

ETA: These this a better link for the London Jane Eyre production: http://www.theambassadors.com/trafalgarstudios/sp_p2702.html

Adapted and Directed by Polly Tealefrom the novel by Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre is poor, plain and unloved. But locked up in the attic of her imagination lives a woman so passionate and so full of longing she must be guarded night and day for fear of the havoc she would wreck. Who is this woman who threatens to destroy Janes's orderly world? A world where Jane has, for the first time, fallen in love.

Last seen in the West End with its award winning play After Mrs Rochester, Shared Experience is one of the country's most successful and inventive theatre companies, making a long awaited return to London with its heartbreaking, utterly compelling and unique interpretation of a great novel.

'You feel you are looking into the heart of Bronte herself' The Times
'Brilliant. A big, stormy play' Sunday Times
'Keeps making me cry in the street. Startling intelligence, passion and humour.' Daily Telegraph

May 4, 2006

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Today's Brontë News

Emily Brontë will be one of the authors of works available from Spoken Network audiobooks.

Emily Brontë's favourite flower, the bluebell, is under threat of hybridisation with commercial and Spanish varieties of the flower.

We have another use of the term 'Bronte-esque' (we are compiling the uses of this term, and maybe someday it will end up in the OED):

By 15, I had already penned an 800-page tome of Bronte-esque proportions, and I don’t mean that in a good way. It smacked of Jackie Collins and Danielle Steele, although I hadn’t (and still haven’t, to this day) ever read a word they‘d written.

Jane Eyre is part of the 'essentials of British and World literature' in new school textbooks.


And Humboldt Light Opera Company's production of Jane Eyre: The Musical is reviewed here. Possibly the production doesn't work entirely on a small stage?

Although “Jane Eyre” may not translate well from 19th century gothic novel to 21st century musical production — at least, not on the small stage — Humboldt Light Opera Company continues its tradition of not settling for the easy out. They continue to take on challenges and provide pleasurable and entertaining theater-going experiences for the North Coast.

May 2, 2006

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Jane Eyre the Musical: Irving, Texas Fan Review

Brontëana reader, Rinabeana, has taken the time to write her impressions of the production now playing in Irving Texas (details here). This is a long excerpt from her review at the League of the Extraordinarily Rochester Obsessed, which explains some of the short cuts here. If possible I will post the rest in a convenient way.

The prelude is a backlit stage with Rochester calling Jane, Jane, Jane across the moors. I was about to have a heart attack thirty seconds into the show I was so excited! The basic set was a large ramp platform, with additional ramps leading to each side of the stage. The large central ramp was tilted to the side so one side of the front end had a step and the other went down to the stage. They lowered windows and doors and moved furniture often to set the different scenes. It was fairly sparse, but you could definitely get the idea. If I recall correctly, the original production had a giant circular rotating stage, but that was definitely not the case here. Much lower budget, I imagine.

I don't know how many of you have seen the show, but I was absolutely SHOCKED at how much music was not included in the original cast recording. I'd say that at least half of the songs were new to me. I marked all the new material with stars on the program (which I scanned and included below) and it's a lot! Plus, there is quite a bit of dialogue without music. I was overjoyed that much of that was straight out of the text! Imagine my glee when Rochester referred to Jane's "fairy ring" and the "men in green"! Pretty much all of Mrs. Fairfax's additional songs were to the tunes of Perfectly Nice and Slip of a Girl. In fact, I didn't hear a lot of new music, just lots of new lyrics. They definitely put the most important songs on the original cast recording. WHY COULDN'T THEY INCLUDE IT ALL, THOUGH??? I was sold at the scene after Hay Lane when Rochester sings Captive Bird while inspecting Jane (by sort of gimping around her) and it was positively smoldering! WHEW! Also, if you aren't familiar with the story (which doesn't apply to anyone here of course), it's quite choppy to go from Perfectly Nice to As Good As You. I love the in between stuff!

I think one of my favorite parts with Jane is definitely Painting Her Portrait. I know this is a community for the Rochester love, and I do like his and his and Jane's songs the best, but I still adore Jane. Painting Her Portrait so perfectly encapsulates her passion and inner turmoil. It's perfect that no one else is involved in the scene at all because she rarely lets anyone else see her emotion. The actress did a great job fiercely drawing and then tearing the pictures when she was done. My poor Jane!

The Gypsy scene cracked me up! I definitely got a feel for how it would be staged from listening to the original cast recording, but it's so fun to see Rochester in his woolen shawl and floppy hat mocking all the snippy girls! They certainly played up their parts, huffing away when he insulted them. Blanche nearly had a temper tantrum, which was fabulous! And who couldn't love the part when he reveals his identity to Jane? I did think it kind of went too far when he asked her how Blanche reacted and Jane told him that she flounced off looking upset. Our smart Jane would have realized that he was playing a trick on her and not been quite so incredulous at the proposal. It was funny, though.

I already mentioned the St. John part, but I can't stress enough how much I disliked the set-up. That's really my only major complaint with the show. Jane NEVER fell for him and he certainly didn't love her! The implication was that she had given up on Edward and was all set to go to India as a wife. There was no psychological manipulation and then the twit tells her she's formed for labour and everyone is on to his game. I think that's why everyone laughed, since the set-up was so incongruous with the denouement in that scene. Of course everyone was rooting for Rochester, even if they didn't know the story! The Voice Across the Moors always gives me chills anyway. I wanted to shove St. John off the stage because he's so extraneous there! HEE!

The return to Thornfield was amazing. After Fairfax explained what had happened, Robert helped the blind (and disfigured!) Rochester to a little bench. That nearly broke my heart. Though Jane didn't sit on his lap (pooh!) the chemistry between them in this scene was wonderful! I totally lost it when Rochester sang to the baby, too! Of course, after that the baby got whisked off stage (through Jane, then Adele, then the maid/nurse) right quick! If it wasn't for Jane's ridiculous huge puffy sleeved dress, that scene would have been perfect!

From the program it also looks like severals songs were renamed. Before Jane leaves Thornfield, the song 'Sirens reprise' has been renamed 'Sail Away' which sounds like an '80's pop tune… Other items from the review: the audience appears to be aware of Bertha before Jane is. The audience sees Bertha attack her brother, but it is the butler not Jane who tends Mr Mason. There was also an unwise blending of the characters of Miss Scatcherd and Miss Temple- not a doubling, a blending, and St.John was unappealing but vaguely a love-interest (which disturbs this fan and others in the audience who burst out laughing at him).

ETA: Ah, also, Rinabeana reports that Mr Rochester (Greg Dulcie) is 'a giant bear of a man', at least a foot and a half taller than Jane. From the program I see that he indeed has played Goliath in a play King David. His credits also include: "costarred with a streaking sheep in the number one ranked Super Bowl commercial for Budweiser." Did he tackle it?

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."

April 28, 2006

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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.

April 27, 2006

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Filed under: Books,Branwell Bronte,Paraliterature,Reviews — by bronteana @ 9:58 pm

Another Review of Branwell

We're heard from the publisher, professional critics, and myself. Now, here is a review from another blogger, and 'Jane Eyre girl.'

There are two types of girls in the Western world: Jane Eyre girls and Elizabeth Bennett girls. Although most love both of the 19th-century's most famous fictional heroines, the majority will confess, if pressed, that deep down their loyalties lie with either one or the other.Although I, too, fell in love with Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr. Darcy and will accept no substitutes, when it comes right down to it, I'm a Jane Eyre girl all the way.

[…]

When I was given the opportunity to read Douglas A. Martin's Branwell, the fictionalized biography of Charlotte Brontë's underachieving brother, I tore into it, hoping desperately for glimpses of his genius older sister and revelling in each mention of her work on Jane Eyre.My tendency to crane my neck past Branwell in order to long after Charlotte was, according to the novel, exactly what was wrong with Branwell to begin with.

[…]

Those looking for the keen determination and righteous anger of Charlotte won't find it in Branwell. The bare bones of Branwell's life, gleaned from scraps of writing and newspaper articles aren't brought into focus. Instead, the entire novel adopts the regressive tone of Brontë himself, a man so personally regressive he painted himself out of the family portrait. The permeating voice is listless and dispassionate, as if Branwell himself is telling the story from the bottom of a fingerful of laudanaum. There is no dialogue between characters, and even the questions are all phrased as statements, as if the narrator did not care if he was heard or not.

April 9, 2006

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A First Look at Agnes Grey

My copy of Agnes Grey arrived in the mail a few days ago. In two days I had finished it, despite having much to do (hope none of my professors are reading this…But, then, it was for a good cause). I ended up with the Everyman paperback edition which includes a selection of Anne's poetry. I read the introduction, which was, to me, informative although I question it as I did catch one error which skewed things a bit. The writer claims that proof of how Aunt Branwell's Methodism had produced a kind of hysteria in the children is seen in Charlotte 'seeing' an 'angel' beside Anne's crib. Charlotte never claimed to have seen an angel, but a fairy which is not at all the same thing. I don't believe Aunt Branwell putting much faith in fairies as messengers of the divine (and anyone at the time who did believe in them would be more alarmed at seeing one by a baby's crib, yes?).

I have been working and studying with a publisher for nearly a year now, so I must speak out at the disgraceful state of the backcover copy even though it is of little consequence. Agnes Grey is not a long book by any means… It does not take long to write backcover copy. Why on earth, then, is Rosalie consistently referred to as Matilda about 5 times in the tiny paragraph of text? Could they not flip through the book for 3 seconds and check her name? There, I've said my peace. I really think publishers need to abandon these glued bindings as well. It's only a 10 year old copy and it already creaks because the glue has gone hard. Unfortunately almost all books published today are bound in this fashion.

On reading AG itself: I had a repeat of the feelings I experienced while reading Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Once again I was probably unduly critical as I read and once again I was baffled. Now, I had 'played' Anne Bronte before and prepared for the experience by reading what I could which might help me do her justice. I have a first edition of Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle by Shorter. So, I opened the section on Anne and what did I find? The first line declares that there's no doubt that Anne would be forgotten entirely, her works discarded, if she had not been Charlotte Bronte's sister! Harsh words! I was puzzled then, and I am puzzled now. It isn't because I would like to appreciate Anne's work- there is simply much to appreciate! If you doubt me, consider that I have been trying- actually trying– to appreciate Jane Austen and I find I still cannot. My feelings are that Anne is a better writer- but before I am torn limb from limb I will admit that I have peculiar tastes and that there are flaws in Anne's work which may lower her work's value after my initial enthusiasm wanes. However, I can never see justification in pronouncing her work so utterly forgettable!

I have a peculiar way of feeling when writing is genuine and when it is contrived. Much of what I've helped publish this year is contrived (again, hoping the publisher doesn't see this… No, actually I have told him so). Anne's work is genuine, and makes me believe in it. Her beginnings are stronger than any of Charlotte's novels, and continue with an unerring movement towards the end, maintaining a steady flow- until the end. And here is where the fault lies. Her endings are disappointing, not as strong as the rest of her work by far. And being the last impression of the entire work, I think they tend to colour how the book is remembered. I recall when I read Tenant that I was convinced it was superior to all but Jane Eyre and Villette until I reached the end. There is a curious hestitancy in the endings of Tenant and Agnes Grey.

This post is already extremely long, so I will have to keep the rest of my thoughts on the book for another time.

April 5, 2006

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Filed under: Drama,Jane Eyre,Reviews,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 11:49 pm

"I don't remember that"

To quote Charlotte in a letter wherein she remarks that she doesn't remember Mr Rochester being repulsive. I thought of this immediately after reading this recent review of Polly Teale's Jane Eyre:

"A memory unsoiled is an exquisite treasure," muses the intolerable Mr Rochester of his "poor and obscure" Jane Eyre.

I am puzzled by other things in this review:

Unable to escape from the horrors of her own miserable childhood, Bronte's heroine finds herself reliving her nightmares as an adult when she finds herself back living in a house with a secret attic room sullied by tormented cries of madness and drawing rooms dominated by stern men. Clinging to her faith and somewhat limited education, she works tirelessly to bury her innermost desires and elude her she-devil alter ego.

I obviously have not seen this production but I think I am becoming very weary of this treatment of the story. I really do not find the concept innovative. I might say I find it hackneyed, in fact. Scarcely three adaptations of the novel do not turn the story into something far darker and tormented than it reads- with all of its humour and wit. After viewing nearly a century of such adaptations, I'm truly weary of it. And I'm tired of hearing that Jane is emotionally repressed when she is one of the most expressive heroines of literature. She struggles with convention, she does not surrender to it- the poor dear.

Need I add that Jane Eyre has been used as a template for cheap, awful Romance novels for… who knows how many years? And that they tend to follow the same trend of oppressing the young woman, and turning the man into something formidable and stern- even sadistic? In fact, minus mad-woman alter-ego, the template sounds… exactly like this description of the play. (A professor I studied with affirms that there actually is a template which authors of these 'novels' use. A sort of 'quick-e-plot' which is a horridly bastardised version of Jane Eyre).

There is nothing that appears out-dated or immaterial. Who would have thought stiff corsets, ringlets, breeches and proper Queen's English (albeit spoken with a Yorkshire drawl) could sit so comfortably in today's society of iPods and PSPs? Shared Experience proves that they do.

'Stiff corsets, ringlets, breeches and proper Queen's English' are things that I have never thought typified the work. But it's a snappy ending to the article… I also don't know what a PSP is, so who am I to say?

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