Pros: Brilliantly atmospheric venue with a well drilled cast that add value to a great story.
Cons: The interval seemed unnecessary bearing in mind the overall length of the play.
Barons Court Theatre is appropriately housed in the Curtains Up pub and its handsome Georgian features provide the perfect setting for the latest retelling of Jekyll & Hyde. I arrived at Barons Court in the midst of a torrential downpour and felt the scene was already being set for a classic Victorian tale. The theatre itself is based in the pub’s cellar with the audience seated in the alcoves; its black brick interior further adding to the play’s authenticity.
Jekyll & Hyde is the classic story written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886. The play centres on Gabriel Utterson, a lawyer who learns of an assault witnessed by his relative Enfield some months previously – a young girl is beaten by the mysterious Edward Hyde. Enfield apprehends Hyde and forces him to pay damages for her emotional and physical injuries. Hyde makes good compensation via cash and a cheque drawn by a Dr Henry Jekyll, a client and friend of Utterson. Upon hearing the tale Utterson’s suspicions are aroused, particularly in light of Dr Jekyll’s will which had recently been changed in favour of Edward Hyde. Utterson subsequently seeks out Edward Hyde to confront him should he be seeking to blackmail Dr Jekyll. Such enquiries set in motion a sequence of events including the murder of an MP, Danvers Carew and concealed passions for Utterson’s wife Mary. Utterson aims to expose the mysterious Edward Hyde and protect Dr Jekyll with the help of mutual friend Dr Hastie Lanyon.
The cellar has a number of natural qualities that add immeasurably to the performance. For example, simply dipping the lights before each scene threw the space into complete darkness until the lights were raised again. This increased the tension and was only possible because no external light was entering the space. The natural insulation also lends itself to some truly outstanding sound effects; we could hear footsteps, heartbeats, the sound of clattering hooves over cobbles with Hackney carriages catching on; and heavy breathing finishing with blood curdling screams! All of this was only possible because of the dynamics offered by a cellar. I could really believe this was London in the late 1880s. The stage props were minimal to say the least, extending to two chairs and a red curtain stretched over fire place, not that much else was needed.
The five strong cast dressed in traditional Victorian costume made their respective roles look easy; Warren Brooking was sound in the dual title roles; Paul Christian Rogers as Utterson was assured with a touch of Irish brogue; the beautiful, willowy Georgie Grier as Mary had a scream to die for; Nicholas Maxwell was convincing in 3 roles including Enfield and Lanyon; and Sarah Palmer similarly pulled off 3 roles with ease.
My only real criticism was the inclusion of an interval, which broke the play into two 45 minute segments; this seemed unnecessary as no one actor was on stage for prolonged spells. All in all, this is a smart, polished production that works brilliantly in a pub venue – more please!
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted & Directed by: Mackenzie Thorpe
Producer: Nicola Foxfield for Green Girl Productions
Box Office: 020 8932 4747
Booking link: Not Available
Booking until: 16th November 2014