By Carys Svendsen
Jane Eyre is very much the marmite of the literature world. When Taliesin announced the show Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, I leapt at the chance to attend the show. From what I remembered, Jane Eyre was a great book with an intriguing plot and, if you looked past Mr Rochester, an all-round page turner, albeit slow in places. However, as the show started, I learnt that I had acquired the skill of ‘Graduation Goggles’, or the ‘rose-tinted glasses’ of the literature world.
The show requires a minimal set up: before us was a simple grey footstool-esque prop and nothing else. I can appreciate the minimalism of props and it would make acting an interesting challenge, but I didn’t realise that the show was acted by one actress: Rebecca Vaughan. However, it was the use of one actress playing Jane Eyre that really provided an accurate feeling to the book – after all, the book is constantly showing the world through Jane’s eyes – and I appreciated the concept of it. However, I was a little bemused when Vaughan acted out the other characters and it looked a little like a mad rambling on stage towards the end of the play; it reminded me a little bit of Barney’s play in How I Met Your Mother due to one actor trying to act out multiple characters at the invisible initial character. Although the play centred around Jane, the portrayal of the other characters became a little distracting and confusing at times, particularly when Vaughan portrayed a young Jane when recalling her past.
Despite the somewhat confusing multiple portrayals, emotions were clearly conveyed in parts of the play. One of the most emotional scenes was when Jane recalls a memory of her best friend dying whilst she was at school. The raw emotion provided by Vaughan kept me on the edge of the seat hoping that her friend would live happily ever after with her. Alas, this was not the case and I spent a few seconds fighting back tears in the darkness before the next scene. However, some of the emotions were somewhat lost in other scenes. This was particularly seen when Jane goes to Aunt Reed for the last time. It’s quite a powerful moment in the book as you see the character development of Jane from her school days with the crucial aspect of her character being her ability to forgive despite her confronting the literal embodiment of her hatred. The scene appeared slightly muddled and lost its impact through Vaughan only interacting with herself and having to switch between characters; it lost its effect of Jane’s newfound empowerment.
If you enjoy one actor shows, then I recommend you checking out the production when it’s in Swansea next. However, I personally wasn’t much of a fan of the show itself, mainly due to the one actress concept as well as the plot – I had forgotten how Jane Eyre becomes a rather whimsical character by the end of both the play and the book. Yes, the play was very loyal to the book, which is great for fans of Jane Eyre, but for myself? I can’t consider myself a fan of Jane Eyre and I was eagerly running out of the theatre by the end of the show whilst resenting my rose-tinted glasses. Vaughan’s portrayal of Jane was spot on for the character and for that I give her a lot of credit as she literally brought the character to life but it still didn’t win me over. As such I’m only giving the show 2/5 stars