Tuesday 24 April 2007

Jane Eyre musical in Beveren, Belgium

On Sunday 22 April I went to see the musical “Jane Eyre” which was being performed in Beveren (Belgium). I was able to have a short chat with someone from the production team, Mr. Paul Van Moere. He gave me some information on the background.

Every 5 years the arts centre embarks on an ambitious musical project. “Jane Eyre” is their third project. The choice of the musical “Jane Eyre” was purely accidental. The musical had been performed in Toronto, on Broadway (New York) and in London, but had not yet been performed on the Continent by a major theatrical company. That was the main reason for selecting this musical. The musical was created by the American composer Paul Gordon, who wrote the music, the lyrics are from John Caird. The original texts were translated in Dutch by Ronny Verheyen. The musical is staged for the first time on the Continent and in the Dutch language, which make it a unique experience. The musical is staged by the Arts Centre Ter Vesten in close co-operation with some amateur dramatic societies and the music academy from Beveren.

The auditions and rehearsals started last year. The result of their efforts could be seen from 13 to 30 April. Due to the enormous success (nearly all evenings were sold out!!) some extra performances were staged on the Mondays.
To Brontë fans the story of Jane Eyre is well known. The musical is a free adaptation of the original book, but the story is on the whole respected (although sometimes shortened).

The story is told mainly by means of songs relieved by narration. The performance involved quite a number of persons. The music was both dramatic and powerful on the one hand and sensitive and touching on the other hand. The lyrics were sometimes very moving even to the extent that a tear fell from my eyes. The staging and performance of the musical was done with great care, with respect for the original story of Charlotte Brontë, with precision and correctness as far as dresses were concerned, and the beautiful music just added the final touch. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was glad that I have been able to experience this wonderful adaptation of Charlotte’s novel. As we all know the story ends well: Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester find happiness in the end. Or, to say it with the lyrics of their last song, “if you don’t know the way, just follow your heart”. And that is exactly what Jane did!

In the margin of the musical there was, amongst other things, a marathon reading of the book Jane Eyre in Dutch. The reading went on before the performance, during the break and was finished after the performance on 22 April around 6 p.m. A cosy corner was set up in the foyer of the Centre where volunteers read part of the book. Very well done too! In the cafeteria you could get your “Jane Eyre” tea, which of course I did!

In the period that the musical was staged, there were also other events such as 2 Jane Eyre films, and other costume drama (Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, Mary Poppins), there were lectures on fashion and tea rituals in Victorian times, etc… In the foyer of the Arts Centre there were also glass cases with books/videos from and on the Brontës and on subjects related to Victorian times.

I must say, I was very impressed with the whole organisation of the event. All credit certainly goes to the production team and all those involved in the event, either on the stage or behind the scene. They made this production the enormous success that it was. CONGRATULATIONS !!!!

Marina Saegerman

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