The U of T theatre scene is strong on all three campuses, and judging by the current production on stage at Theatre Erindale (UTM’s performance space for the Drama program that they share with Sheridan College), the tradition continues at UTM.

Theatre Erindale ‘s production of Jane Eyre is an adaptation by Robert Johanson of the famous novel by Charlotte Brontë. In 1847, Brontë’s novel was published under the pseudonym ‘Currer Bell’ and remains one of the most enduring books of the Victorian era.

Brontë’s personal chronology bears many similarities to the plot of Jane Eyre. From the school at Wakefield that she and her sisters attended that served as the model for the school in Jane Eyre, to her four sisters and brother that died of consumption, the intensity that fuels the character of Jane Eyre undoubtedly has passionate and wounded roots in Charlotte Brontë herself.

Her aunt Miss Bramwell, who died and left her a small sum, and Constantin Heger, the principal who thought she was in love with him, are both instantly recognizable as the pivotal characters Mr. Rochester and the unseen dying uncle that finally grants Eyre her independence and happiness. Brontë watched all her siblings die and rejected three suitors before marrying the fourth in 1854.

Zoë Sweet in the title role and Mark Crawford as Mr. Rochester (both fourth-year Theatre and Drama Studies students) both gave excellent performances. The other cast members, most with more than one role to play, also brought the many supporting characters vividly to life.

Sweet was the standout performer, onstage for almost the entire duration of the two and a half hour play, and offered up a highly spirited and passionate Jane Eyre.

Though the stage was on the small side and left quite bare, the production did not suffer in the least from the no-frills set and was skillfully directed and staged with simple but effective lighting and music. The dramatic narrative fully conveyed the misery and emotions of Eyre’s life as Brontë described in her novel.

A love story that features a strong, independent female lead that forges ahead with admirable strength and depth of character despite oppression and hardship, Jane Eyre continues to address social and personal issues that are just as relevant and inspiring today as they were 150 years ago. Obviously these student actors were paying attention in class-with their solid production, Theatre Erindale puts their own stamp on an indelible classic.

Jane Eyre continues to Saturday at the Erindale Studio Theatre (3359 Mississauga Rd. N). For tickets, call (905) 569-4369.

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