Theatre: Reader, you'll adore it

Jane Eyre New Ambassador's, London Peggy for You Hampstead, London Our Father Almeida, London

How could they do it? Shared Experience's version of Jane Eyre, adapted and directed by Polly Teale, is so fresh and astute that it does what even the most faithful literary adaptation rarely achieves. After nearly three hours of transfixing theatre, it guarantees that rereading the novel will be a let-down.

Teale's adaptation begins with young Jane (Penny Layden) reading of Arctic wastes and tropical warmth, symbolically shadowed by a red-dressed Harriette Ashcroft. After banishment to the Red Room, Jane submits to her guardian's authority; Ashcroft, her rebellious spirit, is left in confinement. But when Jane enters the employ of Mr Rochester (a smouldering Sean Murray), her flashes of impetuousness - followed by Layden' s cartoonish, ashamed grimaces - and her body-shuddering desires are paralleled by Ashcroft, who writhes and wails in the rickety upstairs room as Bertha. Rochester's first wife, the madwoman in the attic, becomes one with Jane's alter ego. Under lock and key, the passions torment their keeper ever more intensely.

Shared Experience's visual economy is also a playful delight. The five other actors take on the rest of the roles: Michael Matus recreates Brocklehurst as a sinister, top-hatted ringmaster, then scampers and pants as Pilot the dog; and Octavia Walter's pirouetting, precocious Adele deserves the fly-swatting disdain of Blanche Ingram (the versatile Hannah Miles). Anchoring it all is plain Jane - but Layden's commanding performance is anything but dull.

For those in the know, Peggy for You, Alan Plater's homage to the theatrical agent Peggy Ramsay, must be a nostalgic joy, the impersonation of a larger- than-life legend by Maureen Lipman in a play littered with literary in- jokes. Plater's play is a thoroughly enjoyable portrait of loveable but frustrating eccentricity. But it's also a perceptive analysis of the symbiotic relationship between writers and agents, while the confrontation between a less sympathetic Peggy and a disgruntled Northern client in the second half throws up many questions about the ideals of art and the demands of living.

Lipman is a dominant presence, but it's difficult to watch this most recognisable and dependable comic actress do her stuff without thinking "That's Maureen Lipman. She's good at mimicry, so that must be a Peggyism." And she has such a range of tics and gestures to call on from a throat- clearing growl to a lolloping walk, as if trying to flick off her flip- flops with each step. Yet Lipman also gives the rest of the cast room to shine, particularly Richard Platt as the writer driven to the unthinkable - the rejection of Peggy's patronage.

Edna O'Brien's Our Father is set during a family reunion at a big house in Seventies rural Ireland. It's reasonable to expect a tyrannous, maybe alcoholic father; a mother who's stoical, possibly religious; grown-up children, each resenting their return; and a row about land, perhaps. O'Brien obliges, and then some.

There are a few moments of effective unease. While the family sip their welcoming drinks, Jamie O'Shea (David Troughton, looking like a cross between a bulldog and a navvy) violently bundles his wife (a fragile Stella McCusker) out the back door. The children fidget in a chilly atmosphere of debilitating acceptance. Yet when Ma's let back in, they toast their parents' anniversary as if she'd just been out picking parsley.

Director Lynne Parker gets the best she can out of a blameless cast. While the (shaky) focus is on Emer, the youngest daughter, the other siblings are only required to declaim their grievances, then go to sleep or to the pub. And as Emer, the sylph-like Aisln McGuckin struggles under the burden not just of victimhood but, as a writer home from London, what can only be inferred to be her creator's autobiographical baggage.

`Jane Eyre' : New Ambassadors, WC1 (0171 836 6111) to 24 December. `Peggy for You': Hampstead, NW3 (0171 722 9301) to 15 January. ` Our Father': Almeida, N1 (0171 359 4404) to 23 December

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions