Jane Eyre plays that are viewable online

The list of arts lost to the pandemic includes various stage productions of Jane Eyre, which could no longer be performed before audiences. A silver lining is that some of the companies have made their productions available for online viewing.

I will post one review for now (November 2020), intending to follow it with others.

Flock Theatre

One such production comes courtesy of the Flock Theatre, based in New London, Connecticut, USA. It is based on an adaptation by Julie Butters, who also plays the lead role of Jane as an adult.

Viewing this production is quite worthwhile, but it requires some adjustments. Due to the pandemic, it consists entirely of cuts back and forth between lone actors who were filmed remotely; there are no group scenes. While I followed the action readily, I still longed for the physical closeness and interplay between characters that the stage version undoubtedly would have included. In addition, it took time to get used to hearing this British tale acted out in American accents (other than Adele's French-infused English).

Butters has done an admirable job of scripting, weaving the dialogue almost exclusively from well-chosen bits of Brontë's original wording. Scenes tend to contain just enough dialogue to convey the storyline and its attendant emotions, without delving more deeply than necessary into the book's sometimes voluminous prose.

Segues between scenes feature a type of simple artwork called "shadow puppetry." Cutouts, atmospheric lighting, and rudimentary motion lend an authentic early-19th-century feel to these moments.

As with any production of Jane Eyre on stage or screen, parts of the plot have had to be excised due to time restraints. For example, Jane's time at Lowood flies past: she arrives, is placed on an imaginary chair, and is comforted by Helen, who later gets scolded by Miss Scatcherd and falls ill. We do not encounter burnt oatmeal, or Miss Temple, or Reverend Brocklehurst's family. Those sorts of necessary omissions do not weaken the tale's basic structure.

The film is 18 actors strong, with four of them playing multiple roles. I found the performance level a little uneven; while the cast members overall were clearly capable, some lines were recited rather plainly rather than delivered as genuine revelations of characters' thoughts and feelings. Two standouts were Sydney Nunes, a clear-spoken young Jane, and the aforementioned Julie Butters, who wrung believable emotions from the older Jane's travails without overdoing it.

This production was directed by Derron Wood, with assistant direction by Victor Chiburis, who also portrays Richard Mason. Information on the production, and a link to the video (which runs 1 hour 51 minutes), can be found here.