Tag Archives: Charlie Ryall

The Strange Case Of Jekyll & Hyde

★★★★★

Jack Studio Theatre

The Strange Case Of Jekyll & Hyde

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:
Radiant Vermin | ★★★★ | November 2018
Sweet Like Chocolate Boy | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Cinderella | ★★★ | December 2018
Gentleman Jack | ★★★★ | January 2019
Taro | ★★★½ | January 2019
As A Man Grows Younger | ★★★ | February 2019
Footfalls And Play | ★★★★★ | February 2019
King Lear | ★★★ | March 2019
The Silence Of Snow | ★★★ | March 2019
Queen Of The Mist | ★★★½ | April 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Indebted to Chance – 4 Stars

Indebted to Chance

Indebted to Chance

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 8th November 2018

★★★★

“an ingenious play about an extraordinary woman”

 

Mercurius Theatre’s Indebted to Chance explores the true story of Charlotte Charke, an 18th century actress, writer, and businesswoman who defied societal expectations of femininity and obedience. Known for “britches roles” (women playing male characters), Charke also frequently dressed in men’s clothing off-stage, and occasionally passed as a man. Author Charlie Ryall has mined Charke’s autobiography and come up with a funny, fresh, irresistibly interesting story about a woman who persists in doing what she wants, and being who she is, in spite of the considerable forces aligned against her.

Indebted to Chance interrogates the volatile relationships Charke (played by Ryall) has with her father (Andy Secombe) and her husband (Benjamin Garrison), and sheds light on her perhaps not-so-platonic feelings for the enigmatic Miss Brown (Beth Eyre) of her memoirs.

This is smart, fun, irreverent theatre. It is consistently funny and entertainingly self-aware. Ryall is canny in knowing when not to shy away from silliness (there’s nods to Monty Python and a memorable fish-slap). In an age where dark drama reigns, it’s a delight to find a performance that’s intelligent, relevant, opinionated, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

As the play mainly takes place in the theatre managed by Charke’s father, Ryall and director Jenny Eastop playfully approach the play-within-a-play scenario. The actors interact with the audience, cleverly acknowledging that we are both their 18th century audience, and their modern audience.

The performances are strong throughout. Ryall wins the audience over easily as the stubborn, acerbic, exasperated Charlotte Charke. There’s a genuineness to her that pulls you in. Garrison is convincing as the charming, emotionally abusive husband, and Lydia Bakelmun (playing Betty Careless), has wonderful comedic presence.

Eastop and designer Sunny D. Smith are highly efficient with the small space, minimal props, and a sparse set. Dangling ropes are creatively used to create a jail cell. The costuming is effective, and does the heavy lifting in transporting the play to the 1700s.

Some issues overall involve abrupt transitions that can be disorienting as the story jumps backward and forward in time, and weak central narrative. Indebted to Chance is more like a patchwork of scenes than a progressing story. It’s a testament to the strength of the characters and dialogue that the play never feels like it’s dragging.

Those wary of plays set pre-1900, due to the density of the language, needn’t be put off. The dialogue is calibrated for a modern audience, and is anything but dry. It’s skilfully written, clever, and very funny. The intermission break is a surprise – the first hour sails by. This is a two-hour performance that earns its runtime.

Indebted to Chance is an ingenious play about an extraordinary woman who refused to play by her society’s unfair rules. It’s sharp, it’s current, and it has an excellent sense of humour.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Chris Marchant

 


Indebted to Chance

Old Red Lion Theatre until 1st December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Nightmares in Progress | ★★★½ | January 2018
Tiny Dynamite | ★★★★ | January 2018
Really Want to Hurt me | ★★★★ | February 2018
The Moor | ★★★★ | February 2018
Shanter | ★★★ | March 2018
Plastic | ★★★★★ | April 2018
In the Shadow of the Mountain | ★★ | May 2018
Tales from the Phantasmagoria | ★★★ | May 2018
I am of Ireland | ★★★ | June 2018
Lamplighters | ★★★★ | July 2018
Welcome Home | ★★★ | August 2018
Hear me Howl | ★★★★ | September 2018
That Girl | ★★★ | September 2018
Hedgehogs & Porcupines | ★★★ | October 2018
Phantasmagorical | ★★★ | October 2018
The Agency | ★★ | October 2018

 

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