The University of East Anglia’s third year drama students are proud to present a unique two-part adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre this December.
Reinventing the traditional period drama, this large ensemble cast brings together original music, dance and a brand new script to produce a chillingly dark adaptation of the classic tale.
Each volume – although half of a whole – stands apart to show different aspects of Jane’s journey; creating two new plays, unmissable whether viewed together or alone.
Venue’s Amy Cornwell spoke to directors Sophie Vaughn and Holly Maples.
What inspired you to put on Jane Eyre?
Sophie Vaughn: We wanted to do something vast that would take on the whole of the year.
Holly Maples: I was really keen with the idea of verbatim theatre working from a novel; I’d recently seen Gatz by Elevator Repair Service and realised the richness of experience in terms of research and getting into the role of the novel.
This way we could make it ours instead of just taking a play which had already been done a thousand times before. Third year production is special; it should be a journey for the students, something they remember as more than just a play.
SV: We wanted the challenge of using the ensemble between two shows, rather than having a separation. Instead of the play just being an experience for the audience, we wanted it to be one for the company as well; something they could take away and remember for a long time.
When do the nerves set in in the run up to the production?
HM: July! Nerves come and go like a rollercoaster. There’s been a lot of prep as there are a lot of different needs; for example the emotional needs of the students.
This is the only assisted show during the drama degree programme where there is any reasonable display to the public of what we are really about.
SV: It’s sometimes felt like we’re free falling, and it will feel like that again; if there is a bad rehearsal or bad run, then the doubt kicks in again. But that always happens.
HM: Nerves are a good thing – if we didn’t care, it wouldn’t be good!
What should the audience expect from this interpretation of Jane Eyre?
HM: We want people to be on the edge of their seats. We have tried to create an experimental play, where the audience enter Jane’s world, where they feel her fear and her sadness.
We wanted to create and enter world of that period without it becoming traditional, romanticised or sentimental by bringing back the harsh reality, a far cry from the contained adaptations of BBC.
The novel was considered so controversial at the time, we wanted to ask how to instil the same shock in a society that is now desensitised to the harsh reality Jane would have had to face.
Jane Eyre is a difficult text to perform, especially due to its length. Do you enjoy the challenge?
SV: Yes – you hit the ground running and you can never stop. When you’re coming from a novel you are given so much of the inner life of the characters.
HM: In plays I love finding the sub text and the inner thoughts of people. With the novel it’s given to you already and you have so much richness to pull from.
Obviously you have to strip it back so it’s not too much for the audience but you still get to keep the quality of the novel.
The show will run from the 4-8 December.