Pros: A strong cast with an exceptional lead.
Cons: A safe production that takes little risk. If you are looking for something dramatically new then this one probably isn’t for you.
‘I am the future’ declares Edward Hyde, the beastly, brutish alter ego of Henry Jekyll, an ambitious scientist who dreams of changing the world. Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic is certainly a thought-provoker, and with the world as it is, Hyde’s claim of evil overtaking good seems frighteningly true.
First published in 1886 as a novella, it has seen many adaptations over the years with the addition of a lead female character being introduced only relatively recently. This time it is Blackeyed Theatre alongside adaptor and director Nick Lane whose turn it is to reimagine this legendary story.
Embarking on a six-month tour, this version begins with Dr Henry Jekyll, a scientist whose ambition is to change the neurological world by splitting the mind. But his experimental methods are unlawful and unethical, and when his friend and colleague Hastings Lanyon discovers his intention, he threatens to turn Jekyll in and reveal all. Desperate not to halt his research, he turns his experiment on himself, thus unleashing a devil-being known as Mr Edward Hyde. Hungry for blood, he turns on an innocent bystander, thrashing him to death in an alleyway.
Lane has certainly made this version his own, choosing to include a female lead who plays Lanyon’s wife and Jekyll’s love interest. But he has also remained true to the story, and the theme of good versus evil still shines brightly throughout.
Played by a cast of just four who collectively take on sixteen different characters, this production showcases some excellent storytelling that keeps you gripped from start to finish. Told through the eyes of Mr Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer and confidant, Zach Lee does a sound job of narrating us through the story, offering welcomed moments of comic relief to lighten the mood. Paige Round does a sterling job as Lanyon’s wife and gives us just enough to imagine the different female characters.
But it is the ever-so-slightly-easy-on-the-eye leading man who steals the show. Switching effortlessly between Jekyll and Hyde, lovely-locked Jack Bannell is brilliant as the two-toned protagonist. Using simple voice and movement to flit between good and evil, his performance is a pleasure to watch, with his deep-voiced, sneering Hyde being a particular highlight.
This production certainly succeeds in dramatic storytelling and indeed does well to keep you gripped, however I couldn’t help but think there was something missing. Blackeyed Theatre claim to ‘surprise, provoke and inspire’, and although the performance was certainly enjoyable, it all feels quite safe. The set (Victoria Spearing), which remains the same throughout but for the odd replacing of a chair, consists of a collection of oak furniture arranged to give the effect of a Victorian lounge. Lighting (Claire Childs) remains relatively simple and samey, even during the renowned transformation. The only real risks that the production takes are with the odd appearance of a red mask, and a bit of slow-motion choreography which looks incredible but is only used once.
Despite this, it is a solid production with some excellent storytelling and phenomenal performances. So whether you are a diehard Danny or a curious Carole, it is definitely one worth seeing, and with the story now being a key text on the English Literature GCSE paper it is certain to sell lots of tickets.
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted and Directed by: Nick Lane
Composer: Tristan Parkes
Booking Until: 7 October 2017
Booking Link: https://www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/events/strange-case-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde
Booking Information: The nationwide tour will continue until 22 March 2018.