Adapted from Charlotte Bronte's novel by Polly Teale
Jane Eyre is undeniably one of the most popular English novels. It has alternately been read as a horror story, a love story, a story of societal oppression, or a story of one woman's quest to free herself from Victorian era expectations. Published in 1847 under a male pseudonym, Charlotte Bronte's novel prompted both praise and condemnation from its critics. Some praised its cleverness and power. Others, in particular after Bronte's true gender was revealed, condemned it for being "unfeminine" and undermining conventional sexual, political, and ethical values. The enduring legacy of the novel is its openness to interpretation.
This adaptation focuses its attention on the psychological drama of Bronte's story. Adaptor Polly Teale attempts to portray the "physical manifestation of the inner journey" of Jane onstage. As a result those who have read the book may be frustrated at times. This is no longer Bronte's story; instead, it is Teale's reworking of the story and characters. Most notably, Teale re-envisions the character of Bertha, Mr. Rochester's mad wife in the novel. In the play Bertha functions as Jane's repressed alter ego, allowing Teale to explore issues of repression and freedom. Bertha exists in a strange state in the play—halfway between imagination and reality. She embodies the passion that Jane longs to set free in herself.
Teale's vision of the story teases out interesting implications. How do we come to know ourselves? How do we balance our intellectual sides and our passionate sides? De we alter who we are in order to find love? In Teale's adaptation, Jane spends a lot of time talking to God. Repeatedly she asks for forgiveness and cries out, "Oh Lord, what does it mean?" Jane's cries of the heart echo our cries. Her struggle to remain true to herself and her Maker echo our struggles. Ultimately, in the play Jane makes a leap of faith and reconciles the two sides of her nature.