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'A quart in a pint pot': Romford Guildonian Players showcase original adaptation of Jane Eyre

PUBLISHED: 10:17 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:55 30 May 2019

Charlotte Jones plays Jane Eyre in The Guildonian's new play. Picture: Chrissie O' Connor

Charlotte Jones plays Jane Eyre in The Guildonian's new play. Picture: Chrissie O' Connor

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Despite countless adaptations, Chrissie O'Connor rarely sees one of her favourite scenes from Charlotte Brontë's beloved novel Jane Eyre on screen or on stage.

Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. Picture: Chrissie O' ConnorJane Eyre and Mr Rochester. Picture: Chrissie O' Connor

It happens about halfway through the novel. Jane has developed feelings for her wealthy boss Mr Rochester, who is set to marry a beautiful, boring woman for the sake of social status.

A nomadic woman visits to tell people's fortunes, and during their session Jane realises the woman is Rochester in disguise, toying with her.

When Chrissie, who is from Romford, looked to direct an adaptation of the 1847 novel, she wanted it to be authentic.

So when the versions she read left that scene out, and mixed up other important details such as the timeline, she decided to write one herself.

Charlotte Jones in The Guildonian's production of Jane Eyre which is playing from June 12 to 15 at the Havering Drama Festival. Picture: Chrissie O' ConnorCharlotte Jones in The Guildonian's production of Jane Eyre which is playing from June 12 to 15 at the Havering Drama Festival. Picture: Chrissie O' Connor

Her original adaptation will be performed by the Guildonian Players on Wednesday, June 12 until Saturday, June 15 at The Little Theatre, in The Drive, Harold Wood.

Chrissie spent about three months sporadically working on condensing the 38-chapter story full of time jumps and location changes into a two-hour live production.

"It's trying to put a quart in a pint pot," she said.

Pre-recorded voiceovers, lighting and sound effects, a youth theatre group and actors with history on-stage together will bring the novel to life.

Genevieve Allen, Tony Szalai, Caroline Tilbury and Iain Attiwell featured in the Guildonian Players' previous production of the BBC comedy series Up Pompeii, first screened in 1969. Picture: Chrissie O'ConnorGenevieve Allen, Tony Szalai, Caroline Tilbury and Iain Attiwell featured in the Guildonian Players' previous production of the BBC comedy series Up Pompeii, first screened in 1969. Picture: Chrissie O'Connor

"She's working very hard to bring everything together," Charlotte Jones, who plays Jane, said.

The 34-year-old from Walthamstow was drawn to this role because of Jane's world famous personality.

"It's an iconic novel," Charlotte said. "And she's a brilliant character."

The first-person novel features introspective passages, and to account for that, Charlotte recorded narrations to share Jane's feelings onstage.

Members of the Harold Wood amateur dramatics group the Guildonian Players, in costume for a previous production. Picture: Chrissie O'ConnorMembers of the Harold Wood amateur dramatics group the Guildonian Players, in costume for a previous production. Picture: Chrissie O'Connor

She said she is nervous to hear her own recorded voice.

"We have Jane's voice, which we have pre-recorded and mixed with music, to help with a gothic feel," Chrissie said.

Chrissie is using innovations such as these to account for the inherent choppiness of more than 40 scenes squeezed into a tight two hours.

To further complicate the stage production, these scenes happen in an array of places.

Thhe Guildonian Players are preparing for their latest show called Once In A LifetimeThhe Guildonian Players are preparing for their latest show called Once In A Lifetime

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Chrissie had to figure out how to transition to each location on one stage.

So she turned to lighting.

The red room, where Jane's uncle died and where the young girl goes as punishment, will be flooded with red light, Chrissie said.

The show must go on! Guildonian Players Catherine Attiwell and Vernon Keeble-Watson in rehearsals for Relative ValuesThe show must go on! Guildonian Players Catherine Attiwell and Vernon Keeble-Watson in rehearsals for Relative Values

Oranges are used for fire, greens for outside and blues for moonlight, Charlotte said.

"It's simple but dramatic," Chrissie said.

On top of showing a large number of scenes in an array of places, the source text follows Jane's life as she grows up.

Eight youngsters from Store Room Youth Theatre in Hornchurch will help mend that gap.

"It's very strange seeing someone playing you," Charlotte said.

After the youngsters begin the play, Charlotte takes over as adult Jane.

In some respects, Charlotte said she is playing a "plain Jane," but the character is also independent and stands firm in her principles.

Despite her and Rochester's attraction, they run in different social crowds and must fulfil different societal expectations.

Charlotte will play Jane opposite Matt Jones' Rochester. The two share a last name, but are not related, although they have acted together before.

The uniqueness of their character's dynamic is their intellectual equality, Charlotte said. The chemistry stemming from that is what Charlotte and Matt must convey. They toy with each other, testing boundaries and saying one thing while meaning another.

"I asked them to think about the motivation behind every line," Chrissie said.

Charlotte said she is most excited for the proposal scene.

"There will be thunder, and lighting and rain," she said, "but I don't want to give everything away."

The play will be will 8pm Wednesday, June 12 through Saturday, June 15 at The Little Theatre, in The Drive, Harold Wood. There will also be a matinee 2pm Saturday, June 15.

Tickets are £8 and can be purchased at the door or by calling 01708 341442.

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