On Thursday 8th of February, our Bookish Broads were invited to the Bolton Octagon Theatre to watch Jane Eyre, courtesy of Manchester Airports Group. None of our group had ever visited the Octagon Theatre before and a couple had never ventured to Bolton, so it was a night of firsts! Before the play started, we were treated to complementary drinks and snacks in the hospitality suite, which helped us to forget the dreary Mancunion rain outside.
As we took our seats in the beautiful Octagon Theatre, we were met by Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director, who explained that Jessica Baglow who usually played Jane Eyre, had sadly taken ill. In true theatre spirit, the company rallied together, deciding that 'the show must go on'. Newman took to the stage to play Jane Eyre, and did so magnificently. From her first line, to the iconic "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me", Newman triumphed. The final, enthusiastic applause, was filled with disbelief that this was not her day job! Like Jane Eyre, this was clearly a many layered, multi-talented woman.
Another star of the show was Michael Peavoy, whose Mr Rochester could have been sketched by Charlotte Brontë, sideburns and all. He was commanding, instantly captivating, with a dark, mysterious Northern charm. Not just a fantastic actor, in the second half Peavoy showed himself to be a gifted singer. A couple of our group managed to have a quick chat with Peavoy after the play, his charm and likablility continue off stage, though without the Rochester darkness!
The play also had many young actors, all of whom were talented, confident and certain to have future successful careers on stage. The theatre itself was used brilliantly throughout, its small size and unusual shape, making the play more personal. The caged metal ceiling was utilised as a platform for the haunting cackles of a veiled Bertha Mason (Leah Walker), who crawled around above our heads.
Whilst some of our group had seen Jane Eyre on stage before, we felt that the Bolton Octagon Theatre captured the darkness and desperate love of the story, like no other. We left the Octagon Theatre, filled with a multitude of praises for the company, having had a fantastic evening. We'll be returning to the theatre soon, no doubt quoting Jane Eyre's ernest; "I am come back to you".