The Strange Case Of Jekyll & Hyde
Jack Studio Theatre
Reviewed – 5th September 2019
“an incredibly well thought out piece of theatre that grips and entertains the whole way through”
It is not hard to imagine the themes of Jekyll and Hyde transplanting themselves into the present day – science going too far, people struggling with their inner demons – and, indeed, The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde merges these so perfectly with the 21st century, it almost makes you question why it hasn’t been done before. Whether it is good vs evil, love vs hate, or Republicans vs Democrats, nothing is off limits in this clever and compelling take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel.
Set in an approximation of present day America, against the backdrop of a Trump impeachment, an avalanche of mass shootings, and mounting political tensions, this production not only offers up Gothic drama but infuses it with a modern and bitter poignancy. Although viewers are most likely familiar with the original twist of the novel, the play begins by throwing out scattered new pieces of mystery. The book’s sincere narrator Gabriel Utterson becomes troubled anti-heroine Gabrielle Utterson (Lucy Ioannou), a woman with dark secrets lurking behind her eyeliner-bedecked eyes. Taking on the role of journalist, she seeks to piece together the link between charismatic mayor Henry Jekyll (Will Pinchin), and villain Hyde (Christopher Tester). Why is the same Hyde seen assaulting a minor, shown just four years ago to be an affable schoolteacher in a relationship with Jekyll? As she becomes drawn closer into Jekyll’s world as his Presidential campaign manager, both the story and her unhealthy personal involvement only deepens.
A cast of characters support the main trio. Sex worker Imogen Poole (Gabrielle Nellis-Pain) turns from witness to Hyde’s horrors to Utterson’s love interest in a satisfying character arc. And scientist Hayley Lanyon (Charlie Ryall) pops up now and again to give insights on Jekyll’s scientific past. All in all, there are exceptional performances from every member of the cast. The script naturally gives Pinchin the most time to shine, but Nellis-Pain’s understated portrayal of what could have easily been a background character is also incredibly strong.
Each character also feels well-grounded in reality. Writer and director Ross McGregor has done well fleshing out the ideas of the novel, and a rich script keeps the cast well supplied with material, from quick ripostes that are both smart and searingly relevant, to high-stakes political debates, and soul-searching monologues. Credit must go also go to costume design (Bryony J. Thompson) for making Jekyll look so much like a Kennedy, and for Utterson’s wonderfully Victorian ensemble – a stylish homage to the story’s home era.
Despite the realism of the setting, the production still retains elements of Gothic spectacle, and it’s these two strands together that make it such a brilliant, bold, and unforgettable performance. Both the lighting (Anna Reddyhoff) and set design (Charlotte Cooke) work hand in hand to magnify the drama – with, eerie red, blue, and fluorescent lights, and a partly-transparent screen (a visual representation of many of the play’s themes) used to great effect. And the sound (Alistair Lax) heightens the drama in all the right places.
The final result is an incredibly well thought out piece of theatre that grips and entertains the whole way through.
Reviewed by Vicky Richards
Photography by Davor Tovarlaza
The Strange Case Of Jekyll & Hyde
Jack Studio Theatre until 28th September
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: