Tag Archives: Ross McGregor

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

 

Before I Am Lost

Before I Am Lost

★★

Etcetera Theatre

Before I Am Lost

Before I Am Lost

Etcetera Theatre

Reviewed – 20th August 2019

★★

 

“has the potential to be something noteworthy”

 

Before I Am Lost is Beatrice Vincent’s one woman show about the Imagist poet and novelist Hilda Doolittle, or H.D, as she is better known. This play about H.D’s life and art is currently playing at the Etcetera Theatre at the Oxford Arms in Camden Town, as part of the Camden Fringe Festival. In Vincent’s take on H.D’s life, we meet the writer at a particularly stressful point in her life — she is pregnant, she is married, but the child she is carrying is not her husband’s. Neither her lover nor her husband wish to claim responsibility, and H.D herself is terrified that she may not survive this pregnancy. Before I Am Lost is a direct address to H.D’s unborn child — saying all the things that are on her mind in case she does not live to say them in person. It’s an attention getting situation.

The historical Hilda Doolittle was a charismatic bisexual female artist who formed powerful relationships with both men and women, some platonic, some not. She moved in artistic circles that included Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and D.H Lawrence. Born in the United States, she moved to London as a young adult and lived in Europe for most of the remainder of her life. She did nearly die while giving birth to her second and only surviving child, but this was due to the influenza pandemic of 1918, and not complications of pregnancy or childbirth. She was a pioneer in many ways, and navigated life and art on her own terms, often despite a disapproving or appropriating male gaze.

Before I Am Lost chooses to foreground H.D’s pregnancy and her more famous male companions. This focus does H.D no favours. With this approach, the script reduces her to a woman experiencing what so many women have experienced, and is distracting in its historical inaccuracies. It makes the briefest of references to H.D’s female lover Bryher but without telling us much about her. The play does refer often to the Greek myths that predominate in H.D’s art, but they are overwhelmingly references to male gods and heroes, even if the characterisation of H.D does take on these mythic figures and cast herself in their moulds. Beatrice Vincent is a sympathetic performer, but as a writer, she has chosen a rather thin vein to mine when such riches of artistic and biographical material are available. Instead, the audience’s attention is at risk of drifting during the performance focusing on things like a lack of an American accent in Vincent’s portrayal of H.D., for example.

Before I Am Lost has the potential to be something noteworthy but this script could use more research, and work with a skilled dramaturg, to get there. H.D’s story, as a writer, a feminist, and as a pioneer of LGBT rights, deserves a memorable telling.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Brendan Walker

 

Camden Fringe

Before I Am Lost

Etcetera Theatre until 20th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Bricks of the Wall | | January 2019
Saga | ★★★★ | March 2019
Safety Net | ★½ | April 2019
The Wasp | ★★★½ | June 2019
Past Perfect | ★★★★ | July 2019
Vice | ★★½ | July 2019
The Parentheticals: Improdyssey | ★★★★ | August 2019
Women On The Edge | ★★★ | August 2019
Puttana | ★★★ | August 2019
Belamour | ★★★★ | August 2019

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