I joined the livestream for this performance slightly ahead of time and found myself in the foyer of the Pumphouse Theatre, surrounded by the muffled chatter of other theatregoers. A real strength of this production was the commitment to providing an authentic theatre experience. Filmed on a handheld camera, the show begins in the foyer and takes the audience through into the theatre, where an announcement encourages us to turn off phones and commit to the experience.
The show stars Jonathan Davenport as Jekyll/Hyde, with the voices of Utterson and Poole provided by Mark Waghorn and Ian Flatt respectively. I was initially sceptical about such a small cast, but it was surprisingly effective, serving to shine a light on Jekyll’s character and emphasise his self-imposed isolation. Davenport’s performance is compelling enough, switching between a composed, reflective Jekyll and a base, raging Hyde. He really comes into his own in the final scene, in which he agonisingly tries to contain Hyde enough to drink fatal poison as Jekyll, flipping between the two with impressive speed. The additional voiceovers lent weight to the story and provided anecdotal soundbites which prevented the performance from seeming too much like a one-man show.
Applaudably, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde embraces the current restrictions rather than feeling limited by them. The show begins with a pretty traditional stage set-up, but we are soon introduced to Jekyll’s laboratory, a beautifully lit enclosed space. Having access to this almost-backstage area lends weight to the theme of duality which runs through the performance. Lighting is used incredibly well throughout, flickering across Davenport’s face to emphasise his transitions between Jekyll and Hyde, good and evil. Use of a handheld camera was perhaps the most effective choice for this production, thrusting the audience uncomfortably and directly into the action as Hyde grabs onto it in anguish.
I was initially surprised that the performance was only 30 minutes long, but as it drew to a close, I felt that the story had been told properly. This production made good use of the space and resources, playing with a traditional theatre set-up to create something that is as invigorating and new as it is loyal to the original text.
Original book by: Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by: Stuart Crowther
Directed by: Stephen Smith
Produced by: Threedumb Theatre, in association with Pump House Theatre Co
The recorded version of this show is available to view online at Threedumb Theatre’s Facebook page. The show is free, but donations towards the theatre group are welcome.