Saturday, 12 October 2013

Theatre review: Jekyll & Hyde

In the 1970s Hammer made a horror film called Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde, which saw Robert Louis Stevenson's mad scientist transform himself into an evil woman. For the latest Edinburgh transfer to Southwark Playhouse's Little, Jekyll & Hyde, the conceit gets reversed. In Jonathan Holloway's adaptation of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, lawyer Henry Utterson (Michael Edwards) is intrigued by the will of Dr Jekyll, which has the mysterious criminal Edward Hyde as its sole beneficiary. Seeking out Jekyll (Cristina Catalina,) Utterson discovers the doctor is in fact a woman, for whom he falls pretty quickly. Her medical qualifications aren't the only way she's ahead of her time for an 1880s woman, as she uses promises of sex to keep Utterson in line. But as she seems to become more and more in thrall to the unseen Hyde, the lawyer tries to discover what the connection between them is.

Of course, you already know what that connection is. Jekyll & Hyde keeps the original novella's structure where the dual personality is a shocking final twist, but the characters have long since entered the popular consciousness, which leaves the company on a bit of a hiding to nothing trying to play the story as a mystery.

And aside from the big changes to the title character(s) Jessica Edwards' production doesn't have much that's very fresh to offer. Once again Victoriana equals white facepaint and mournful music, but despite the protestations of the narrators in a framing device there's no sense of spookiness here, and the injection of humour and sexuality both come off awkwardly. A rather grotesque prop makes for a late coup that elicits gasps, but overall I found this a bit lifeless.

Jekyll & Hyde by Jonathan Holloway, based on Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, is booking until the 19th of October at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes straight through.

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