Home » Reviews » Off West End » Jekyll and Hyde, Southwark Playhouse – Review

Jekyll and Hyde, Southwark Playhouse – Review

Jonathan Holloway

Directed by Jessica Edwards
★★
Pros: An original adaptation of a classic text.
Cons: I found it easy to stop caring about what was going on.
Our Verdict: Brilliantly sordid without actually being brilliant.
Courtesy of Flipping the Bird Theatre
This is an interesting one. Back in July one of my fellow Everything Theatre contributors reviewed this production before it went up to the Edinburgh Festival – as you will read, they felt rather differently to me about it. Personally, I am still finding it hard to see how this show warranted the numerous four and five star reviews it received during its sell out run in Edinburgh. However it is a requirement of reviewing for Everything Theatre that we are constructive, not demeaning; so I will attempt to be so.
Essentially what we have here is a story within a story. Holloway’s version of this classic text has Jekyll cast as a female doctor (Cristina Catalina) who is visited by Henry Utterson (Michael Edwards) in a bid to find out more about the mysterious ‘Hyde’. Both the original novel and this adaptation comment on duality of character. There is layer upon layer of meaning on display here but it doesn’t leave much of an impact.
I don’t object to the reworking of the text, I object to the execution of it. I wasn’t convinced by many of the performances, although I thought Leo Marcus Wan was brilliant. But there is a saying that goes something along the lines of ‘a Director’s toughest job is casting’ and I think Jessica Edwards has mostly got it wrong here. And it is a shame. 
A shame because Edwards has assembled a strong technical team. Joanna Scotcher’s set design is a marvel. She has excelled herself in recreating the seedy underbelly of Victorian South London. The stage is suitably dark and gloomy which really helps to establish the sordidness of the characters’ world. Joshua Carr’s lighting design is sexy, erotic and creepy. I particularly liked the streetlamp glow behind the windows. It made Victorian London seem more like Gothic London, an effect Tim Burton would be proud of.
I found some of the dialogue quite clunky. Holloway has great credentials so I am confused as to how he allowed his characters to speak such clichés. I also objected to the scene with the fake male genitalia. I don’t find it shocking or clever, and indeed by inserting this scene the whole production becomes less of a comment on gender and sex, and instead trivialises Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous work.
A lot of what was on display here doesn’t really serve the need of the story, but is instead aimed at establishing an atmosphere. The opening scene was wonderful however. St John’s (a fantastic Elliot Rennie) dreary violin playing and singing is sublime and very atmospheric. And I loved the decadence of the work. It is wonderful to look at it. It makes one want to visit their nearest antique dealer to acquire a snuff box and visit an opium den. 
In truth, I found the whole thing rather boring. And I really dislike writing that. I wanted this to be good. I really did. But it didn’t work for me. I do want to say that I think some of the team behind this are supremely talented and clearly on their way to becoming masters of their fields. But ultimately I cannot review talent; my job is to review theatre. And this was not good theatre. A bit exciting, a visual feast, but not much story telling. Just shock tactics that don’t shock or make for good theatre. So I left disappointed. But I am still thinking and talking about it. So what do I know?
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Jekyll and Hyde runs until 19th October 2013 at Southwark Playhouse.
Box Office: 020 7407 0234 or book online at http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

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Everything Theatre
Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.
  • Anonymous

    I completely see where you’re coming from. I felt so divided about this play but that’s why it excited me so much. I agree that some of the moments, such as the prosthesis and Leo Wan’s performative execution, felt experience-focused rather than deep. But I concluded that that was what the show was aiming to achieve. It was meant to shallowly touch upon nerves and feelings, and it did. I felt that this show was a one-star or five-star show, and that is how great theatre should be. On reflection it must be the latter.