Jane Eyre/Malvern Theatres

SKELETAL timbers stand stark against a sky full of foreboding, wooden fingers reaching out into the gloom.

There is no doubt that Alan Valentine’s subtle lighting, combined with Victoria Spearing’s haunting set design, make for a marriage made in hell, depressing in the extreme.

And so it’s therefore the absolutely perfect setting for Charlotte Bronte’s tale of a woman who endures constant prejudice and thwarted hopes to finally triumph over all the odds.

Writer Nick Lane has taken this story of struggle and empowerment and made it very much his own. Entirely Gothic from beginning to end, it is only the haunting, pastoral music of George Jennings that leavens this meagre bread.

Kelsey Short breaks every heart in the audience with her portrayal of the Cinderella orphan girl who finds herself trapped in a house of repression and bullying.

This eventually changes when she takes up a position at Thornfield Hall, where she encounters the mysterious Edward Rochester. He will become her prince, but the slipper does not completely fit, as we soon find out.

The couple dance around each other like late summer dragonflies on a pond, oblivious to the fact that time is running out.

Ben Warwick was born to play the role of Rochester, delivering a stupendously mood- marinaded performance, a sort of Teutonic Aidan Turner emerging through the dry ice rather than the Cornish Atlantic breakers.

This is a cast that has no problem with doubling or even trebling up roles, Camilla Simson, Eleanor Toms executing some very finally timed changes.

Oliver Hamilton in particular deftly switches from bully boy John Reed to pious clergyman St John Rivers in the time that it takes to whip on a dog collar.

This superb production by Blackeyed Theatre marks a dramatic milestone and is warmly recommended. Jane Eyre runs until Saturday (September 28).

John Phillpott