Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Rose Theatre Kingston
Reviewed – 14th February 2018
“The one moment of true violence on stage was badly managed, and failed to convince”
Robert Louis Stevenson’s late 19th century novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde revisits the same themes as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written 70 years earlier. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, its narrative of the duality of human nature and the merits (or otherwise) of scientific investigation, still have the power to fascinate. What a shame then, that this production remains in the dated and formulaic tradition of Victorian drawing room drama.
David Edgar’s script introduces three female characters to the original, but, despite some excellent work from both Polly Frame as Dr. Jekyll’s forward-looking sister Katherine, and Grace Hogg-Robinson as her plucky maid Annie, their inclusion seemed superfluous, and served only to detract from the pared-down tension of Stevenson’s tale. Indeed, the production as a whole was baggy, and lacked both pace and narrative drive. The inclusion of two sub-plots – Annie’s flight and subsequent appointment in Dr. Jekyll’s house, and Lanyon’s actions as a result of the exposure of his past – together with the final reveal of a formative incident in Dr. Jekyll’s childhood, crowded out the power of Dr. Jekyll’s terrifying experiment entirely.
The production failed to provide any moments of genuine fear, and Phil Daniels’ central performance often teetered on the edge of vaudeville, leaving the audience unsure of what was expected from them. Some able, but strangely-placed, pieces of theatrical business from Sam Cox, as Jekyll’s butler Poole, gave us the reason we needed to laugh, but this reviewer was not the only one to feel the comedy inherent in Daniels’ broad Glaswegian, drunken Hyde. The one moment of true violence on stage was badly managed, and failed to convince, and the decision to delay the conclusion, and thus dilute the impact, of Hyde’s original transgression, as witnessed by Utterson, seemed yet another way to diminish Hyde’s monstrous power.
The production design only served to underline the Fairground House of Horrors feel of the piece, with hackneyed visual and sonic tropes throughout. Rosie Abraham’s haunting voice was beautiful, but overused, and the glowing laboratory door and equipment seemed faintly comedic. As did the continual opening and closing of all three on-stage doors, which bordered on the farcical.
Ultimately, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde did not seize the imagination. It is a tale that still has the capacity to bite, but, unfortunately, this production rendered it toothless.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Mark Douet
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Rose Theatre Kingston until 17th February then continues on tour