Interview with Cathy Marston, choregrapher of Jane Eyre, Northern Ballet's new production
Northern Ballet is now regarded as one of the world’s premier ballet companies, committed to creating new ballets and touring widely, performing to audiences throughout the UK who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the highest quality ballet. The Company under the directorship of David Nixon OBE, is also much in demand internationally and has most recently performed in China and the UAE.
We have been working with Northern Ballet for a few years to provide high quality events for our clients in London and across the UK.
This year, we are delighted to be a production sponsor of their new ballet Jane Eyre. The ultimate heroine, Jane Eyre’s journey to overcome the odds is one of literature’s finest love stories. Choreographer Cathy Marston tells us about bringing Charlotte Bronte's iconic novel from page to stage.
Why did you choose to choreograph Jane Eyre?
As the daughter of two English teachers, Jane Eyre was one of the classics of English Literature that I was introduced to as a child. There are so many different works that I could make inspired by this novel – rich as it is with characters, motifs and themes. Necessarily restricting my focus to create this 90 minute ballet however, I decided to hone in on Jane’s story, which combines an utterly compelling romantic narrative with the journey of a young, sparky girl discovering emotional intelligence as she attempts to balance moral integrity with love, passion and compassion.
What is it about Jane that attracted you to her character?
I’m often drawn to strong female leads; characters like Cathy (Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights) Mrs Alving (Ibsen’s Ghosts) are just some of those who have inspired me. Jane is considered an early feminist character. She feels like she is fighting the outside world but she is also fighting herself. As I discovered her anew through our rehearsals I was struck by how surprising she is. Her reactions are seldom obvious, and we always asked, ‘What would Jane do here?’
What about Mr Rochester?
The enigma with Mr Rochester is also a wonderful character to draw through dance: he's not your typical prince charming and is yet the archetype of a romantic hero. The counterbalance between him and St John is a very physical and human way to personify the tension Jane feels between her desires and principles.
One challenge we were faced with when creating this ballet was how to cast Mr Rochester, as in the book and in most film adaptation he is well over 40, but Northern Ballet's male dancers are younger than that. It is an interesting challenge though as it makes you look at who Rochester is inside rather than how he looks on the outside.
Can you tell us about your creative team?
I was thrilled to work again with Philip Feeney, also a long term Northern Ballet collaborator, to create the score for Jane Eyre using a combination of his own original compositions and music by other established composers. One of those whose music underpins the piece is Fanny Mendelssohn. We wanted to include 19th century music in the piece and it felt appropriate to choose a woman who, like the Brontës, was also a game changer of that period in her own way. Orchestrated by Philip, her music sounds remarkably contemporary, especially sitting next to the music of her brother, Felix Mendelssohn, and Schubert.
I was also delighted that Patrick Kinmonth created the sets and costumes for this production. His background, which combines theatre, art and fashion has influenced our approach, creating a stylised space that can transform and give you a sense of the scenes free from domestic clutter and props. The painted cloths suggest at once the dark interior settings of the story and the moorland that is both a realistic and emotional background to the plot.
How does it feel to be working with Northern Ballet again?
I’m really excited to be both returning to the Company and this ballet. Inevitably with new creations, the choreography is very ‘fresh’ on the première performance, and the dancers find the movement embeds itself in their bodies throughout the run of shows. This time we can approach it as an existing work and dig a little deeper together as we rehearse and remember the piece. It’s a task that I know will inspire us all and I look forward to another layer of our work together.
Northern Ballet's production of Jane Eyre is touring the UK from March-June 2018. For details on tour dates and venues, visit www.northernballet.com/jane-eyre