Jekyll and Hyde

Jekyll and Hyde
Jekyll and Hyde at The Orchard Theatre

The current touring production of Jekyll and Hyde is David Edgar’s adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel. It tells of the story of Dr Jekyll who undertakes an experiment which splits the darker side out from his normal self and gradually the dark side takes hold in the form of Mr Hyde. Intended to be as dark and gothic as always but with the added complexity of female characters layered onto what is normally a story heavily dominated by men.

Jekyll and HydeMy main gripe with the play was that it was lacking in pace and tension and therefore verging on dull. The play was overly verbose with protracted scenes spent in Jekyll’s sitting room discussing morality.  It consequently took a long time to establish the premise of Dr Jekyll’s experiments and even as he began them and the transformation occurred for the first time I was decidedly underwhelmed.  The transformation itself from Jekyll to Hyde was simply a change in accent, from upper class to a broad Glaswegian accent, which was frequently difficult to understand. Jekyll/Hyde played by Phil Daniel lacked any real change in physicality and as Hyde lacked any real menace.

The addition of Katherine, Jekyll’s sister did allow for an interesting exploration of Jekyll’s past however this element was often glossed over. In reality it was this that peaked my interest. Polly Frame played Katherine and she brought a nice grounding to the role and helped ensure that women aren’t just victim’s in Stevenson’s classic story.

Jekyll and HydeJekyll and Hyde relied upon the use of a singer in the scene changes, which did add atmosphere . However music only being used in scene changes meant it felt disjointed and could have carried through to many of the scenes to add tension or atmosphere.

I often struggled to hear some of the dialogue when it took place on the upper level of the set including the opening scene which attempted to do much of the scene setting. This upper level however was underused throughout the play and could have been used for some interesting split scenes while Jekyll is in the lab and others, literally above him in the house.

The show has lots of potential with such a good source material and the idea of these additional female characters to provide ‘foresight and emotional intelligence’ is an intriguing one yet this production falls somewhat short of its potential due to a slow moving and overly wordy adaptation.

To find out more about Jekyll and Hyde and what else is on at The Orchard Theatre visit their website.

If you liked this review you might also like my review of A Passage to India and Pippin.

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