Simon Collier’s revival of Jekyll & Hyde takes place in a cosy pub-theatre in Kentish town. The small, informal space makes for a relaxed and casual atmosphere.
Stage adaptations of such classics as Jekyll and Hyde are often reinvented and placed into a more ‘edgy’ modern context. Along the lines of; setting it in a south London school where Jekyll is in fact a girl (you know the sort of thing I mean). There have also been many different takes on Edward Hyde’s appearance and persona.
Much like the venue, the performance is no-frills. It’s a simple and solid performance which remains refreshingly truthful to the original book. I had initial reservations about Hyde being too much the one-dimensional ‘monster’ (although Wyatt Wendels plays that very well). However, this is actually how Hyde is portrayed in the original novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, in which the antagonist is described as abhorrent and frequently likened to a monkey.
Interestingly many roles in a traditionally all-male play have been swapped for female equivalents in this production.
The set carries a great sense of atmosphere, audience members sit within the dark confines of Jekyll’s laboratory, the walls covered with mad scientific scribbles, only partially illuminated by dim yellow lighting. Old period news clippings plastered to the wall help to set the scene. Thin mist and a quietly haunting classical score bring out dreamy, surreal qualities as Edward Hyde leers out at the audience through a gilt mirror frame, suspended over the stage. This mirror serves well as a device for Jekyll to transform into Hyde. Facing each other either side of the mirror, the pair rotate, effectively swapping places from the mind to reality and vice-versa. Whenever Jekyll is on stage, Hyde will appear in the mirror to torment him.
The sound design is notably good, tying together some slick sequences and a slow-motion beating.
Overall this is an enjoyable show from a small theatre company, but sometimes it can’t quite shake a slightly ‘A-level drama’ feel.
There are also a couple of moments where interaction between the housemaids descends into an annoying form of comedy melodrama. Despite this, Leonora Haig sticks out as the best actor in this performance.
Whilst this latest interpretation of Jekyll & Hyde isn’t going to change your life, it does provide a darkly entertaining night out.
- By Adam Dechanel
- Director: Simon James Collier
- Cast includes: Rebecca Bell, Elizabeth Bryant, Rory Fairbairn, Leonora Haig, Tom Hartill, Connie Jackson, Darragh Kelliher, Wyatt Wendels.
- The Lion & Unicorn Theatre, London
- Until 25 October 2014
- Time: 19.30 (Running time: 70mins)
- Review by Oliver J Weinfeld
- 5 October 2014