Arrows & Traps’ 18th production in its five-year history is also its tenth at London’s Brockley Jack Theatre, where it is now an associate company, and its third in a Gothic trilogy. And it’s a corker.
Following versions of Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, Arrows & Traps founder, writer and director Ross McGregor, has turned his hand to Robert Louis Stevenson‘s 1866 classic The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde and given it an ultra-modern and politically charged makeover.
The story of man’s duality, an epic battle between good and evil, is relocated to the United States today in the lead-up to the 2020 election, in which Dr Henry Jekyll is a gay Democratic hopeful competing for a post-Trump presidency and campaigning hard on gun control.
(Apart from enjoying the drama, for political junkies like me, there’s immense pleasure in identifying the real-life figures and incidents that have inspired McGregor – South Bend, Indiana mayor and breakthrough liberal star Pete Buttigieg most obviously, but also watch out for disgraced Democratic Senator Al Franken references and perhaps some Republicans similar to Mike Pence, Ted Cruz and, well, just about any Donald Trump surrogates.)
Frequent collaborators and company members Will Pinchin and Christopher Tester star as Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde along with Lucy Ioannou, Charlie Ryall and Gabrielle Nellis-Pain in the cleverly re-gendered roles of Utterson, Lanyon and Poole.
After the performance, I was joined by Ross McGregor and the cast to discuss the Victorians, literature, political parallels, writing and rehearsal processes (can you believe? the latter lasted longer than the former, as Ross wrote Jekyll & Hyde in just ten days… and long after he’d booked the theatre), why women make better actors… and my tail-wagging cockerpoo Lottie, who was invited as a special guest by Arrows & Traps and can be seen, and occasionally heard, in the front row during the post-show talk.
The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde continues at London’s Brockley Jack Theatre until 28 September 2019 and then transfers to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from 10 to 12 October. It returns in 2020 for a UK tour launching from Birmingham Old Rep Theatre 26 to 29 February.