Touring – reviewed at Rose Theatre, London
Newly adapted by David Edgar, this new production of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde has plenty of chilling moments but doesn’t quite make a strong enough impact overall.
This classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson is brought to life once more in Kate Saxon’s atmospheric and chilling production – which is let down by David Edgar’s adaptation which takes far too long for the story to get going and offers no real depth to the characters.
It is a pity because there is plenty to appreciate about Saxon’s wonderfully gothically styled production. From the beautifully effective lighting by Mark Jonathan that highlights key moments such as Jekyll’s transformation to the surprising use of song which sends a chill down the spine.
But the effectiveness of the production is slightly taken away when Edgar’s adaptation meanders its way through the story – with too much filler and not enough action to hold and capture the audience’s interest effectively.
The opening scenes involving Jekyll and his sister don’t really give us a feel for their personalities or a sense of the direction that the story will take, feeling slightly purposeless in context with the rest of the story. From then on it feels as though the story takes a little bit of a backseat, with the scenes never fully getting to grip with what is happening.
However, perhaps Edgar was aiming for a slow-burning thriller because there are still moments that showcase the contrast between Jekyll and Hyde’s personalities brilliantly – including the horrific murder of an MP in the second act that is chillingly brutal to watch and seeing how Hyde’s personality begins to effect Jekyll’s towards the end is well written.
It certainly feels a more traditional retelling of the story that reflects the ideas expressed originally by Robert Louis Stevenson, but overall, the script needs to be a lot sharper to make more of an impact.
Performance wise, Phil Daniels as Jekyll and Hyde balances the contrast between the characters nicely – from the calm laid back and family friendly Jekyll to the mad and vicious Hyde that works well with the concept of the production as a whole. The particular standout moment of his performance comes as it becomes clear that Hyde is beginning to have a serious impact on Jekyll’s well being that leads to tragic consequences in the laboratory. Elsewhere, Grace Hogg-Robinson as Annie is charmingly inquisitive but there are elements of the character’s inner strength that add depth – particularly in the climax, while Sam Cox as the loyal and concerned Poole adds elements of lightness to scenes with the way in which he drily delivers his lines.
Overall, this production is wonderfully gothic to watch but the adaptation is lacking in depth and focus on the story that is needed to keep the audience hooked throughout. Nice ideas but just lacking in conviction overall.