STAGE REVIEW: Jane Eyre at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, September 24 to Saturday, September 28, 2019.

THERE was quite clearly something in the ‘Eyre’ and it was all thanks to this wonderful treat.

Greeted as we were in this outstanding Blackeyed Theatre production by a sparse, if not stark, set after the great conflagration had consumed Thornfield Hall it helped to set the tone for Charlotte Bronte’s classic Gothic love story.

At first sight, it appeareed strange - in a manner of speaking, to open the proceedings with the ending! But it wasn’t quite so or quite that simple with the fire that eventually destroyed the home of the male romantic lead, Edward Fairfax Rochester, occurring in keeping with the original masterpiece.

The cast of just five, led by Kelsey Short in the title role and Ben Warwick’s Rochester, really rose to the occasion - capturing all the moods and relaying them with considerable clarity of diction.

Utterly captivating and convincing - especially the relationship that grew between the two leads.

The cast’s exceptional use of the minimal props available to them was a credit to their dexterity and the guidance of director Adrian McDougall and set designer Victoria Spearing, with boxes and benches offering in the mind’s eye long passageways, doors and dark, secretive rooms.

Thornfield is an isolated mansion in England’s north-east and contains a number of apparently unused rooms that become important to the narrative, especially as its gloomy character holds a dark secret.

Jane is possibly before her time as Kelsey Short provides a woman of sterner stuff who can rise to any challenge with an inner fighting spirit.

It may been a male dominated world at the time of Bronte’s 1847 work, but our heroine showed she was quite capable of fighting on, even during her darkest hours.

Great support from Camilla Simson, Eleanor Toms and Oliver Hamilton who filled a variety of roles with Camilla Simson impressing as both the caring Mrs Fairfax and violent Bertha Mason.

Ben Warwick’s Rochester is yet another admirable performance, capturing his tormented soul, depression and malaise, before love is welcomingly rewarded.

Blackeyed Theatre has built a considerable reputation for itself in recent years and this production is without doubt yet another feather in their cap.