Home » Reviews » Off West End » Jekyll and Hyde, Maltings Arts Centre

Jekyll and Hyde, Maltings Arts Centre

Jonathan Holloway
Directed by Jessica Edwards
Presented by Red Shift – Flipping the Bird

★★★★

Pros: This is a dark and exciting twist on a classic tale. Excellent writing supported by neat yet dynamic staging, and strong performances from the cast give this production high quality impact for the £10 ticket price.

Cons: There are some awkward moments with a couple of props and I felt that Dr Jekyll could have been a little stronger with more contrast. It has a 12+ rating but I feel 14+ is more appropriate it as it contains some nudity and intriguing adult themes.

Our Verdict: This is cracking theatre – a genuinely unexpected gem of a show. The whole production is pitch perfect, and the twist in the tale is unexpected, original and exciting. If I was off to Edinburgh Fridge, I’d see it again!

So we all know the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale of the experimental Dr Jekyll and his alter

Courtesy of Maltings Arts Theatre

ego Mr Hyde. When this production begins, we are firmly entrenched in the Victorian era by the simple yet effective set, the costume and demeanour of a gentleman fallen on hard luck. He is negotiating the sale of a manuscript, penned by a madman, the value of which lies in the immense impact it has upon the reader. As the story is read, we are introduced to the classic tale – the very proper Utterson and his immoral companion, Enfield, stumbling upon the doorway outside which a grotesque murder has recently occurred. They are enticed in and become embroiled in events that go beyond their control. So at this point we settle in to hear a familiar tale and begin to enjoy the wonderful musical score (by Laurence Osborn), performed by the narrators who remain on stage throughout, perfectly creating the mood and atmosphere of a seedy, dirty backdrop for a debauched and disturbing story.

Now here’s where the review gets a little tricky because to laud the real genius of this piece of writing is to give away a significant spoiler, so I’ll tread carefully. The story continues with Utterson’s recollection of Jekyll’s will he has notarised. The twist in the tale is that when the two meet, Jekyll is not who we expect, and Hyde, therefore, is a different manifestation of the alter ego. It is a very clever, completely plausible twist, contemporary and titillating, yet utterly comfortable in the period the story is set. It’s a sparkling yet solid piece of writing with real depth both in plot and character development – even the narrators evolve as the play progresses, as they are perturbed and unhinged by the story unfolding. The plot propels itself from the anticipated setting of a very respectable gentleman’s front room into a world of depravity, sexual deviance, drugs and destruction. This script is excellent in every respect – perfectly poised, lots of humour, suspense and grit with utterly credible dialogue throughout. It is hardly surprising to learn that Holloway is a Fringe First award winner – this is masterful stuff.

I really can’t fault the production values of this tight piece of drama. The acting is superb, completely convincing and entertaining. A playbill wasn’t available so I can’t credit the actors individually – suffice to say this is some of the best casting I have seen in off west end theatre for some time. Jekyll is a tricky role to play in this particular script, and I would like to see stronger colour and contrast in the delivery. However, to add this may possibly undermine the nuance of this version of the character. The set and stage direction are really top drawer – the tiny space is utilised like a full scale stage to great effect. Add to this impeccable lighting design and that wonderfully performed musical score and what you have is a high class production in miniature. At a climactic point there is an awkward moment where a pertinent prop is kicked gracelessly off the stage – I’m not sure if this is intentional direction or an on the night mishap! It does not detract from the exceptional visual impact though, which is overall very impressive.

Be warned – it does contain some nudity in varying forms, and pulls a punch with complex and tenable adult material. I’m not sure the 12+ rating is entirely appropriate and as a parent of teenagers myself I feel 14+ might be more suitable. That said, it is a spot on, sordid, sexy, intelligent show for the rest of us and I can highly recommend it. In fact, if you are lucky enough to be in Edinburgh this August, don’t miss it!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Jekyll and Hyde runs at The Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans until 25th July 2013 then transfers to Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh Fringe until 24th August 2013. 
Box office +44 (0)131 226 0000 or book on line at https://www.edfringe.com/search#q=show_performer%3Ajekyll&fq=dates%3A%5B2013-07-31T06%3A00%3A00Z%20TO%202013-09-05T06%3A00%3A00Z%5D

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