, views from the gods | plays | jekyll & hyde

views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Jekyll & Hyde
The Maltings Arts Theatre
24th July 2013


Cristina Catalina

Photography supplied by Chloé Neklin Consulting

I first stumbled across Stephenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the library when I was ten or 11 and have been a big fan of the book ever since. (It certainly helped that I initially thought the author was the 'Father of Railways', George Stephenson...) So obviously I approached this performance in a state of some trepidation, concerned that I would have to sit through another butchered interpretation of this classic tale.

Happily, this new production by playwright Jonathan Holloway more than meets the original tale's brilliant construction. The blend of loosely-sketched narrative gradually weaving tighter through each scene of hints, glimpses and suggestions leaves just enough unexplained to bolster the thread of psychological violence that builds throughout the story to an unforgettable climax.

This new version, reimagined to cast fresh light on the themes of the original telling, mirrors the tight pace of the original work. At 75 minutes, Jessica Edwards' masterful direction effectively matches the compact efficiency of the original novella without losing any of the appeal or impact of the original work - proving to be a blissfully hedonistic escape.

We open to simple melodies being picked out upon a cello. Melodies which are continued by other instruments and improvisations continuing on and off throughout the piece. The composer, Laurence Osborn, has done a beautiful job mixing these instrumental parts, and occasional singing, both within and without the scenes of the play. The music, performed by actor-musicians Joel Phillimore and Elliot Rennie, effortlessly switches between dramatically leading the story and softly building and emphasising the emotional turmoil of both characters and audience.

The familiar characters, locations and events are given a fresh gloss of paint, with a particularly debauched twist. The story begins with the intricately fleshed out character of the "well-known man about town" Mr Enfield, portrayed in a show-stealing performance by Leo Marcus Wan, and Michael Edward's Mr Utterson drunkenly rambling down a back alley of London when they come upon a lone door in a wall - an event and location which lovingly references the original novel. From there the story unfolds seemingly as expected before the appearance of Dr Jekyll (an expert show by Cristina Catalina) sends us down the rabbit hole into this weird, wonderful and darkly comedic adaptation.

Full credit must also be given to Joshua Carr for some subtle and effective use of lighting which in combination with simple yet elegant stage design allowed for a great sense of place and time.

Often Edinburgh previews aren't quite ready, the actors are reading from bits of paper, or trying out ideas that sound great in principle but fall flat on stage. Jekyll & Hyde however suffers from none of those things, it's a thoroughly polished piece which left me wanting to see it immediately again. Undeniably brilliant all round, Jekyll & Hyde is set to be one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Jekyll & Hyde ran at The Maltings Arts Theatre from the 24th to 25th July 2013. It runs from 31st July to 25th August at Assembly Roxy Downstairs, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Nearest station: St Albans Abbey (National Rail)

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