Perfect setting for outdoor Jane Eyre

Words and photos by Dave Barry

The setting for an outdoor production of Jane Eyre at Scarborough castle was just about perfect.

The stage was between the audience and the keep, which was easy to imagine as the ruins of Thornfield Hall, where much of Charlotte Brontë’s domestic noir is set.

It was just a few hundred yards from the grave of the novelist’s sister Anne and the North York moors were visible in the distance, to the left of the stage.

Directed by Bryony Tebbutt, a professional cast of six from Lincoln’s Chapterhouse Theatre played all 14 characters in Laura Turner’s skilful adaptation with terrific pace and passion.

Pearl Constance’s costumes were just right, the acoustics within the ancient stone walls were good and the sound effects intentional and unintentional. They included adult gulls squawking, juvenile gulls squealing, pigeons cooing and prosecco corks popping left, right and centre, often at critical points in the dialogue.

But it didn’t seem to bother anyone as the atmosphere was relaxed and informal.

The weather couldn’t have been better. It was clear, sunny and warm when the performance began, but cooled off as the sun sank behind Turkey Carpet in a red sunset and a near-full moon rose over the south bay.

The show sold out in advance and there was a queue at the gate. The capacity audience of 320 took chairs and blankets to sit on and picnics to eat.

Among the spectators was Ted Temple, the last person to have lived at the castle, who reckoned that the previous outdoor show was a production of Murder in the Cathedral, about Thomas à Beckett, in about 1964 or 1965.

A bonus piece of theatre unfolded as the audience were walking home or back to their cars, as the Shannon lifeboat beached in the south bay after rescuing a yacht.