Horsham, Worthing and Portsmouth dates for Jane Eyre on tour

Blackeyed Theatre are promising a gothic masterpiece of tempestuous passions and dark secrets as they hit the road with a brand-new adaptation of one of the greatest works of English fiction, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Ben Warwick, Kelsey Short, courtesy of Alex Harvey-Brown
Ben Warwick, Kelsey Short, courtesy of Alex Harvey-Brown

Dates coming up include: The Capitol, Horsham, March 10-11, 01403 750220; Connaught Theatre, Worthing, March 12-14, 01903 206206; New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, March 16-18, 02392 649000; and Theatre Royal, Winchester, March 19-21, 01962 840440.

Playing Jane is Kelsey Short in her first professional leading role since leaving drama school.

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“I think it was sheer luck,” she says. “I didn’t have an agent. I applied through Spotlight, and I got an audition which I just thought was crazy. And then I did the audition and I got the call (to be offered the part), and I just said ‘Are you sure?’

“I graduated five and a half years ago now. Before this, I was doing lots of fringe stuff and I had to have a job at the time. I was doing fringe stuff above pubs and so on.”

But Kelsey always felt the breakthrough was going to come: “I am very stubborn!”

And she has loved the way that Blackeyed Theatre work: “The book was obviously the main source before I got into rehearsals. Without the book, there is nothing. But the way that Nick Lane, the adapter, has worked, he has written all the relationships you need.”

Jane Eyre tells the story of an orphan girl and her journey from a childhood of loneliness and cruelty to a life at Thornfield Hall and an unlikely relationship with the mysterious Mr Rochester.

Falling in love, she gradually uncovers a hidden past to the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall, a terrible secret that forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice.

“It is a bit scary sometimes because you know that so many people in the audience will have read the book, will absolutely love the book, will have their own ideas about how Jane should be. I think we have just got to stay true to the story as much as possible.

“I just see Jane as such a strong, independent woman who knows exactly what she wants. But there is also a part of her that would love the love of a family, and I find that vulnerability within her amazing because she doesn’t falter in what she wants.

“There is huge strength within her. If she didn’t support herself, she would just crumble because no one else is going to support her. Aunt Reed is dreadful to her. She is just so awful. But she has got her own strength to rely on, and she is just an incredible character.”

And then along comes Rochester: “And I think she sees his vulnerability behind his façade. He is very brash. He is very forthright. He does what he wants when he wants, but she sees that there is more to him than that. She sees that, like she is, he is vulnerable. She is such an empathetic person.

“Blackeyed Theatre really work on the truth. That’s the key thing for them, and one of the main aspects of that is the relationship between Jane and Rochester. It is such an important part of the story.

“Blackeyed Theatre have put a lot of music into the show. Everyone plays an instrument. Even I do. Rochester asks if I play the piano. And there are only five of us in the cast. Everyone is multi-roling apart from me.”