Monday, January 7, 2008

More Jane Eyre Debriefing

Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre.

Penny has asked what I thought of the BBC production. I loved it. I found the stage version of Jane Eyre at the Guthrie Theater disappointing, particularly because of the excruciating accents and the monochromatic Rochester. The BBC's Rochester, Toby Stephens, is a fine actor, and Ruth Wilson as Jane was wonderful. I don't think she's at all "plain," as in the quote in my last post, but she has a marvelously expressive face that was able, I thought, to convey the emotions and the strength of character behind her silences. The BBC's Jane Eyre was, in my opinion, vastly superior to the ITV Jane Austen adaptations about to be thrown at American viewers. Fortunately, they're also reprising the good version of Pride and Prejudice, with the beautiful Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth (oh, and Colin Firth as that wet-shirted Mr. Darcy bloke). The ITV Mansfield Park is a travesty; the Northanger Abbey is sexed up, courtesy of Andrew Davies; and the Persuasion, while benefiting from a fine performance by Sally Hawkins, makes several crucial missteps.

Over the summer, I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Charlotte Brontë's little sister Anne. I would love to track down, perhaps on Netflix, the 1996 BBC adaptation of that novel. In that adaptation, the hero, Gilbert Markham, is played by Toby Stephens (Rochester in the 2006 Jane Eyre) and the heroine, Helen Graham, is played by Tara Fitzgerald (the vindictive Aunt Reed in the 2006 Jane Eyre). One of my favorite games, while watching British television (or, in America, Masterpiece Theater), is the game of "Where have I seen this British actor before?" Jane Eyre, for example, also features Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram. She was featured on an episode of Dr. Who and will be featured in the film version of Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Turning to the ITV Jane Austen adaptations, Northanger Abbey features actresses Carey Mulligan and Mansfield Park features Billie Piper, both of whom have also been on Dr. Who. It would be easy to play "Six Degrees of David Tennant," or some such game, with British actors. I've often thought that appearing in costume dramas must be a form of national service in England.

1 comment:

nancesp said...

Sad to say, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has not been released on DVD in the U.S. I spoke with someone at BBC Worldwide last summer and they told me that they were arranging to release it in April 2008, but I for one am not going to hold my breath! You are better off trying to find a VHS tape to check out of a library (the tapes can also be had for a mint on ebay).

--a Toby Stephens fan

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