EVEN you've read the brilliant book, seen the films and attended theatre productions of Charlotte Bronte’s feminist masterpiece, you probably won't have seen anything like this.

A three-hour marathon that takes in practically every nuance of the novel: from feisty Jane being orphaned as a baby and being adopted by a tyrannical Mrs Reed to her leaving aged ten and setting out into a cold, harsh Christian-shaped world, and later becoming a fully fledged woman with her own desires and passion.

Played out on tall but simple wooden platforms and metal ladders awash mostly with white lighting, this collaboration between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic has much to admire, not least the performances by the whole cast but especially Nadia Clifford as Jane and Tim Delap as Rochester.

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For the most part it was enthralling and totally original, with the actors climbing ladders and delivering lines from the tall edifices. A band complemented the action throughout and Rochester's "wife" Bertha Mason was played by Melanie Marshall, whose voice was beautiful in comparison to her wretched, insane existence in a barred attic room.

The strength of the piece was Bronte's brilliant story and novel writing, and as you'd expect from a production so radically different some things don't quite fit on stage. Like hearing Noël Coward's Mad About the Boy as an inner thought from Jane and at times the pace of the story sagged (it took an hour to meet Rochester, the crux of the piece!).

And even a cracking production like this couldn't dramatically re-create the great fire, unlike cinema or the book; we were told about the devastation rather than shown. The final scene and "the kiss" between Jane and Rochester was emotional, though.

The Clash's classic Sandinista album sprung to mind as I watched. Inside that very good sprawling LP there was a great album, but it needed judicious editing. Story telling on stage is no different.

n Until Saturday, July 8

Ed Waugh