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Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Tara Theatre – Review

Robert Louis Stevenson (Adapted by James Hyland)
Directed by Phil Lowe

Pros: This one-man show is incredibly demanding and physically taxing with multiple characters and non-stop dialogue. Award-winning actor James Hyland proves how talented he is, and sets a very high standard for theatrical performance.

Cons: This not-to-missed production has a very short run: one night at the Tara Theatre.

Our Verdict: James Hyland knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s a pleasure to watch someone with this incredible level of talent. Jekyll and Hyde is a familiar story, but Hyland’s adaptation and performance is out of Robert Louis Stevenson’s world. 

Courtesy of Tara Theatre
James Hyland is a genius. He has to be. No one ‘ordinary’ could do what he did. His performance in his adaptation of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was like watching a madman, exactly as it should be. At one point, wielding a knife, he tells the audience to stand up, leave and warn the authorities. It was so convincing I almost felt compelled to move. Not because I thought Hyland was going to kill someone, but because it felt impossible to disobey the dominance of this character.

With the exception of some lighting, and a lectern, a bar and a lifeless body, this play is all Hyland. He performs, or rather becomes, every character (I counted seven) without any wardrobe changes, props, or pauses. ‘Seamless’ is an understatement when describing the transitions from one character to the next. Everything about them is captured the instant they appear; their voice, physicality, expressions and their story. In theory it should be confusing, but Hyland’s extraordinary talent means the audience is never puzzled by who is who.

This adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel sees Dr Jekyll giving his final lecture to prove the ‘in every man exists good and evil’ theory. From the moment Dr Jekyll enters the space, the audience hang off his every word. The address is formal, despite the chilling subject. A gruesome post mortem examination of a female victim who had been murdered, leaves little to the imagination. As it continues, the delivery turns more narrative in style, with the lecturer becoming the storyteller, revealing his strange association with the mysterious Edward Hyde and the shocking truth about his identity.

Hyland’s every action, word and expression has been carefully and strategically considered. With nothing more than a few adjectives, a hand gesture or turn of the head, Hyland manages to paint such clear pictures. The audience can see the chamber, which is Dr Jekyll’s laboratory, can hear the noise of the crowded Whitechapel bar, and can feel the cold and dark of the alleyway. None of this performance feels contrived. Even when Dr Jekyll swallows the potion, and his body violently spasms as good turns into evil, it feels authentic, never a farce. The level of realism in this performance only comes with a great deal of time and effort. And it is clear Hyland and director Phil Lowe have invested a lot of their selves to create an authentic and polished performance. And as an audience, you feel thankful they did.

Hyland must be a sucker for punishment, as this one-man adaptation of the Jekyll and Hyde story is unbelievably demanding and physically taxing with multiple characters, and non-stop dialogue. Hyland has thrown everything he has to produce something extraordinary, and the result is a memorable, compelling and five star piece of theatre.

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

Strange Case of Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde was at Tara Theatre on 22nd November 2013. For more information visit http://tara-arts.com.

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