Jane Eyre At The Rep, Birmingham – Delicious Gothic Melodrama

You have to feel for Jane Eyre, one of the most unlucky heroines in classic literature. Her life was one of low after low, orphaned soon after birth, hated by the family who took her in but saw her as a cuckoo in the nest, sent away to a school where she was treated brutally, losing her best friend to consumption and ill treatment, and when she finally breaks out as a governess and falls in love with her boss, the mysterious, and let’s be honest, rather strange Mr Rochester, her plans for true love are thwarted by the maniacal tendencies of the first Mrs Rochester, not so safely locked away in the attic.A sad and desperate story, but one with all the juicy ingredients to make a riveting, deliciously dark and Gothic piece of theatre. And, in the latest collaboration between the National Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic, that is exactly what you have.

Jane Eyre, which opened at Birmingham’s Rep Theatre last night, has all the hallmarks of a piece of work from the National Theatre, in that it stays faithful to the Charlotte Bronte story, but puts a very modern twist on the tale through the use of sparse and industrial style sets and music from a live band and the incredible vocal talent of Melanie Marshall as the mad, bad Bertha. The talented cast of six principals, plus Melanie, perform a series of roles with aplomb, with only the incredible Nadia Clifford as a spirited, driven Jane playing only one role.

The action through the early part of the play is moved on quickly. But certain scenes resonate as they establish that young Jane has a strong and honest character and a real sense of right and wrong. Lynda Rooke is a deliciously evil Mrs Reed, sworn to treat Jane like her own child, but instead viciously bullying and victimising the child before sending her away to a school governed by the God Fearing bully Mr Brocklehurst (Paul Mundell). Jane develops a friendship with the saintly and sickly Helen (Hannah Bristow) but finds it hard to understand how Helen accepts undue punishments without hate. As a young adult Jane has progressed to teaching in the school herself, but feels trapped and imprisoned, and so moves out to become a governess to Adela (again Hannah Bristow – I love her in this role, so effervescent.) It is only on meeting Mr Rochester that Jane discovers passion and love in equal parts, giving Nadia Clifford free rein to show a range of emotions to devastating effect, and to show real chemistry with the charismatic and commanding Tim Delap as Rochester.

This is a brilliant production of a classic book that is both full of surprises, doesn’t shrink from violence or politically incorrect treatment and labeling of women, but also has the power to shock and delight, particularly in the use of a favourite Gnarls Barkley hit single to illustrate the fate of Bertha and Rochester. And whilst it doesn’t end with ‘reader, I married him’, it is satisfying to lovers of the book in every other way.


Jane Eyre

The Rep, Birmingham 5-16 September

Click here for ticket information


The FlyingKids Activity Book Reviewed.

Traveling with kids can be very stressful, even when you are taking a trip by aeroplane. Kids get bored very quickly, even when you are just taking a short haul flight, so it is important that you are prepared for this, and take a bag of goodies that will keep them busy and occupied for the journey. If you are traveling to Europe this Summer, the FlyingKids Activity Book Europe could be the perfect way to pass the time away as you travel to your destination.

The FlyingKids Travel Guide series is aimed at children aged 6-12, and offers information about the major countries of the world. It now has a sister companion piece, a colouring activity book full of pictures and quizzes based around some of the most important Countries and Cities in the World. The activities are educational, you learn about flags, culture, food and historical buildings, but also a lot of fun, especially for those who enjoy colouring it.

We have the FlyingKids activity book that is based all around Europe and are going to be taking it on our holiday next week as something for Joe to do on the plane, but I think you could use this book in lots of different scenario’s. This could range from teaching your child a little bit about a new place they are about to visit, building the excitement in the run up to a trip, or using it when you are actually on holiday when you are taking a break from the sun.

The books are lovely quality and are totally child friendly, with Leonardo, your tour guide, taking you from Italy to Germany, France to Spain, and then onto London. You see the Coliseum, the London Eye, the Brandenburg Gate and the Sagrada Familia, and hopefully your child will leave a little bit about the new places you are visiting through their book.

Style Focus – Coffee Table Books At The Works

There are books that are made to be read and read. The sort of books that have dog eared pages, notes in the margin, pages turned over when you’ve lost your bookmarks. These are the sort of books you read on trains, on buses, by the pool on your holidays, but they are not necessarily the sort of books you love and cherish, they tend to be the books you read and then donate to your local charity shop, or leave on shelves in holiday hotels.

But there is another kind of book, one that is meant to be loved and cherished, books that are far too beautiful to sit on a shelf and be ignored, and books you would certainly never turn the pages over. I’m talking, of course, about the coffee table book – books often related to the topics of fashion, style, interiors and architecture.  These are usually hardback books, bigger than your average shelf can hold (hence living, almost nochalently, on the edge of a coffee table, to be admired and to browse through.).  Filled with beautiful illustrations of photography, coffee table books are almost as much about the style as they are about the content.

Bargain bookseller The Works is not normally the first port of call when looking for coffee table style books, but this would be a mistake, because it currently has a huge collection of books that are stylish and beautiful, perfect for lovers of fashion and architecture, as well as many books devoted to Art and The Arts. It is definitely worth checking out the special offers at The Works before you look elsewhere, especially as their website has so many more books than you will find in their UK Stores.

I have made a list of some reading material on my current wishlist, with the top read definitely being Icons of Vintage Fashion by Angele Hernu.

100 Years of Fashion
Format: Paperback Author: Cally Blackman Click to visit The Works

Rare Bird of Fashion
Format: Hardback Author: Eric Boman Click to visit The Works

Format: Paperback Author: Christopher Breward Click to visit The Works

1920s Fashion
Format: Paperback Author: Charlotte Fiell £7 Click to visit The Works


Fashion Universe of Jean Paul Gaultier
Format: Hardback Author: Nathalie Bondil £67.99 Click to visit The Works