Review: Hathersage Players do Charlotte Bronte proud

Hathersage Players' production of Jane Eyre, starring Louise Whiteley as Jane Eyre and Rob Hall as Rochester.
Hathersage Players' production of Jane Eyre, starring Louise Whiteley as Jane Eyre and Rob Hall as Rochester.

Hathersage is renowned for its links to Charlotte Bronte’s classic story Jane Eyre.

The authoress was inspired by its beautiful location when she visited the home of a friend’s brother who was the parish vicar.

North Lees Hall which was inhabited by the Eyre family is represented as her hero Rochester’s home Thornfield Hall, The first owner of North Lees was Agnes Ashurst, reputed to be a lunatic who was confined to a room on the first floor - just like Rochester’s first wife Bertha in the story.

In the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s death, the village players are honouring the writer whose work has attracted hundreds of tourists to the area.

An open-air production of Jane Eyre will be staged at North Lees Hall on July 2. Those lucky enough to have snapped up a ticket to the sell-out performance will be in for a treat.

The play explores the deepening relationship between Jane, a governess appointed to educate the child of the master of house, and Rochester, a tortured soul for whom life has dealt a bad hand despite his wealth.

Louise Whiteley gives a beautifully judged performance in the title role. Her voice is gentle, her manner subservient, her expressions adding to the charm of her characterisation as she cajoles and teases Rochester, parrying his verbal blows like a champion fencer.

Rob Hall is the spark to her flame, depicting Rochester’s angry outbursts and brief moments of tenderness with consummate ease and engendering sympathy in his audience.

Little Madeleine Cooper is a scene-stealer as Rochester’s French love child Adele, Emily Upton shines in the role of housekeeper Mrs Fairfax and Jenny Armstrong gives a good characterisation as Rochester’s spoilt, jealous girlfriend Blanche Ingram.

Performed in the setting of a wood-panelled library, the technical aspect is as good as the performance with windows blowing open, manic screams ringing out, the sound of footsteps clattering up stone steps, crackling flames and swirling dry ice to symbolise smoke.

Gemma Laidler directs Jane Eyre, which has been adapted from the original by Rob Hall.

The production ran for four nights at Hathersage Memorial Hall, where its final performance last night (Saturday, May 21) attracted a large audience.