Jekyll & Hyde
Reviewed – 25th February 2020
“Fire Hazard Games offer a slick production”
Combining mobile gaming, real-world scavenger hunting, narrative storytelling and live performance, Jekyll and Hyde is the latest immersive experience from Fire Hazard Games.
Players meet the chemist Emerson Frey (Daniel Chrisostomou), the lawyer Jude Edmonton (Tim Kennington) and the psychoanalyst Aubrey Goldmann (Chloe Mashiter) who explain that last night you committed a terrible deed. However, you, Dr Jekyll, cannot remember what you did as you took a mysterious serum that both altered your personality and caused selective amnesia of the night’s events.
Players – either solo or in a team of up to three – must thus uncover their missing memories by solving online clues and make decisions about their future, all while under increasing time pressure.
The plot is relatively simple, and there is a fair degree of customisation depending on the choices made. However, it is rather easy for players to ignore the game’s story and focus only on solving clues, as one does not need to remember earlier information to solve later clues.
There are 21 locations with clues to solve around the Waterloo area. It is unlikely that players will have time to cover all of these which gives the game a fair amount of replay value. The most atmospheric locations are the Church (set in the spooky grounds of St John’s Church on Waterloo Road) and the Hospital (set outside the nineteenth century Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women). Other locations, such as Press Night (next to the Young Vic), do not set the scene so well, with blatant reminders – like a Sainsbury’s Local – that players are not in fact exploring Victorian London.
At select locations, Frey, Edmonton and Goldmann will appear to offer players a deal that will affect the outcome of their game. For example, at the Church, Frey makes a frightening appearance, encouraging you to come under his ward and continue the experiments with the mysterious serum. The trio do well to stay in character and are a helpful reminder to think beyond clue hunting and about the wider story.
Unfortunately, not every team will meet the characters individually as this is entirely dependent on the locations one visits. This is a shame for those participants who are especially interested in becoming immersed in the story and its world.
The mobile aspect of the game works well for the most part, though poor internet connectivity outside the VAULT Festival where the game begins does not fill players with much initial confidence. The game is dependent on a strong internet connection and significant phone charge and if these fail there is no way to rejoin. Frey, Edmonton and Goldmann can track players and their actions on their own devices which are cleverly hidden in empty book props. This also means that they can tailor their conversations if they do meet.
Jekyll and Hyde is a lot of fun and Fire Hazard Games offer a slick production that does fairly well to adapt a complicated and multifaceted experience to different interests and game play styles.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Jack Studio Theatre
Reviewed – 17th January 2020
“It’s hard to figure out which is greater, the vibrant whole or the sum of its high-calibre parts”
Yard Players follow up a successful production of King Lear by whip-panning to the other end of Shakespeare’s spectrum, staging his seasonal romantic comedy at the same venue. The audience’s age range suggests Director (and Set Designer) James Eley’s plan to make the classics accessible to all is working, though Twelfth Night traditionally doesn’t need much help, with enough pranks, set pieces and comedy devices to please any post-Christmas crowd.
An intelligent and thorough production starts by shifting Illyria to Northern England, bringing the enjoyable impression that Viola (Jessica Kinsey, sole survivor from King Lear) is shipwrecked somewhere off the shore of Grimsby, then finds herself in the thrall of Duke Orsino (Duncan Drury) a lovestruck local aristocrat who previously had only his Alexa to talk to. In this world, Andrew Aguecheek (also Duncan Drury) is a gratingly braying twit in a flat cap with more money than brain cells and Maria (Heloise Spring) is a lairy troublemaker in tracksuit and hoop earrings.
New jokes are heaped upon 400-year-old ones with a mania that makes the arrival of Viola’s twin, Sebastian (James Viller), in an earnest scene with saviour, Antonio (Daniel Chrisostomou), a huge and welcome relief. This change of pace, style and mood is also a helpful signpost for the arrival of the main plot, a directorial ploy that is used again in the second half, when Malvolio (Daniel Chrisostomou again), as protagonist of the comedic sub-plot, is tormented. As the lighting changes, pinioning him in a red spotlight surrounded by darkness, his comedy becomes tragic and his sub-plot starts to usurp the main story. By the end, Malvolio’s ‘notorious wrong’ carries the greater dramatic weight, overshadowing the supposedly symmetrical love matches that are intended to set things right and send audience spirits soaring.
If it opts for a darker denouement, there is no lack of joy in the performance and creative arts. The substance Daniel Chrisostomou manages to invest in both Malvolio and Antonio gives the production its unusual gravitational force, but it is balanced on the comedy side of the scale by Pete Picton, who is as watchable a Sir Toby Belch as you could find at any ticket price, sowing confusion and enmity with the blamelessness only a drunkard can expect to pull off. James Eley’s nautically themed set is both impactful and detailed and Maeve McCarthy’s compositions are apt in their scene-setting, if rustically played, while Paul Lennox’s Lighting Design, as mentioned, is sparingly deployed but emphatic.
It’s hard to figure out which is greater, the vibrant whole or the sum of its high-calibre parts. Characters occasionally seem to be performing in different comedic genres alongside each other, but the ensemble playing is fast moving, the mischief and malevolence isn’t ignored, and some moments of empathy and pathos slip through at surprising moments.
Reviewed by Dominic Gettins
Photography by Yard Players
Jack Studio Theatre until 1st February
Previously reviewed at this venue: