Jane Eyre: A Story of Female Independence

Our senior school production, Jane Eyre, was a spectacular performance that wowed the Santa Maria College community over three shows last weekend. Jessica Wynn, who is a Drama teacher here at the College and the Creative Director behind this production, shares some words with us:

When Covid-19 restrictions cancelled our production of Jane Eyre in 2022, it looked unlikely we would be able to mount the production in our current Santa Maria College Theatre. With building works imminent, I searched for a performance space that would encourage a multidisciplinary event. Packenham Street Art Space was found and became the inspiration for this theatrical and artistic reimagining of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s remarkable novel.

PSAS is a historic building that has been sensitively restored as a collection of artist studios and galleries. It seemed the perfect location to explore the heroine Jane from a new perspective. Keen to engage many of our senior students in this rich story of female independence, I approached departments across the College to discuss and explore relevant themes.

As teenagers navigating a complex 21st-century world, our girls responded to Jane’s struggle for identity and autonomy. In particular, Jane’s defiance of societal expectations and traditional gender roles generated much discussion. Our girls identified parallels with their own experiences. Jane is a shining example of a young woman who pushes back against the stereotypes placed on her and who upholds the right to be equal.

I would like to recognise the immense creativity and commitment of our many collaborators who have contributed art, movement, choreography, film, music and performance. The team behind the event was vast; each individual gave their time and energy to bring it to life. I am immensely proud of our performers who shared their talents and told this remarkable story over four performances.

Some students who were lucky enough to be involved in this spectacular production share their experiences with us:

Jane Eyre was an incredible experience with lots of passion and energy from all involved. As a dancer starting the process, we had yet to learn how we would be integrated into the play. We approached the process with an open mind and a willingness to be creative, yet with many different ideas about how we would connect with the themes of Jane Eyre.

In the lead-up, we spent most of our time completing different improvisation tasks, from which much of the dance movement was derived. Creating dance and blocking in a traverse to ensure that both sides of the audience were involved was tricky. Ultimately, it created a greater sense of connection and intimacy with the audience allowing them to be immersed in the performance. We found great inspiration from the gallery itself, using the structures and the pillars to further develop movement and create an exceptional performance alongside the actors.

Being part of Jane Eyre has allowed me to connect across year groups and form new friendships. As a cast, we became very close, learned more about one another, and created so many memories that will remain with us always. Jess Stewart, 2023 Performing Arts Captain

Jane Eyre 2023 was such a fun, different and exciting experience that went by so fast! I learned so much about aspects of drama that I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t get this opportunity. I learnt all sorts from how a traverse stage works, how to use my kinaesthetic response to act, and how to annotate a script. I was challenged in Jane Eyre to step outside my comfort zone and work harder than I had in any other school play, and I enjoyed doing so especially with the support of the cast and crew.

I have grown as a performer doing such a creative play in such an interesting space. As well as having such a complex and realistic character that I got to play shows her angst, toughness, and all her thoughts, which is something I have never done before. I had so much fun and made many memories and friends with the people in the cast. Nothing can beat the feeling of being tired yet so excited during production week. A highlight of the week was trying to get everyone to sign your program before the show and watching as this amazing show come together with the lighting and set. I enjoyed making so many memories and the exhilarating roller coaster of going on stage with some of the best and most supportive people surrounding me. Lily Venables Redfern (Year 10), who played Jane Eyre at age 10

Through the Jane Eyre production experience, I have learned so much as a performer and discovered new skills from rehearsing and being on stage. I remained persistent in my efforts throughout the process and have discovered a newfound confidence from having the opportunity to showcase my work. Reflecting on the production, my favourite memories that I will take from this experience are the ones I made with the many new friendships I have formed throughout. Connecting with people from different year groups and being one large family is so special that I will remember my experience in the Jane Eyre production forever. Alice Leavy (Year 12), who played Jane Eyre at age 18

Overall, my experience of performing Jane Eyre was incredible. I have never participated in a production before, so I didn’t realise I would make so many friends from other years whilst enhancing my understanding of drama. Over the last three months, I have learned that my place as a woman is to help free myself and inspire others, just as Jane did. I have loved and truly appreciated the production process, and now I have a greater understanding of feminism and literature in modern times. Isabella Mowday (Year 12), who played Jane Eyre at age 19

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