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JEKYLL AND HYDE – The Platform Theatre, London

 

Jekyll and HydeA female Jekyll, a male Hyde, a relocation and a new narration are just a few of the modern touches that grace this visually arresting piece of Theatre from Writer and Director Jonathan Holloway. Eschewing the staid in favour of the new, sadly, it is a victim of its own ambition, as Holloway’s shaken and stirred take on Stevenson’s classic novella runs aground with something of a whimper.

Set at the end of the 19th century, we are situated in Asia (place unspecified), where an employee is sent by her company to purchase a manuscript. Eking out a chapter at a time, the seller provides snippets of the story to entice a high(er) price for his work. The potential buyer listens with intent. At first intrigued and then later abhorred, her curiosity and stiff negotiations mean that she is soon provided with the whole sordid saga.

Violent crimes on the streets of London are the topic of inquiry. On the side of the benevolent, our Dr Jekyll is of Eastern European descent; a research scientist who has experienced unspeakable abuse in far off war zones. Settling in London and taking further steps to secure safety by transforming herself into a man, her experiment takes a more extreme hold than she ever envisioned. Cue horror, disorder and diabolical consequences.

Holloway’s choice to alter Jekyll’s sex announces an interesting frisson and a fascinating new spin for dramatic discourse, such as the sexism of the period. The carnal impulses and the complex romantic tensions that could arise in such circumstances as Jekyll pleads to the admiring Utterson, “I can’t imagine locking a man inside me the way couples usually do”. It is a fascinating twist.

Similarly, the employment of elements of Danse Macabre and Victorian cabaret projects a suitably dark, unsettling and portentous mood, alongside the Asian culture-meets-film noir impression offered by the cast’s Geisha face paint and gloomily lit stage.

For all of the positives in terms of mood and ambience, this is a cumbersome production and trips over itself far too often. There is a muddy consistency to the script, which results in a disappointing incoherence. The narrative shifts and changes too many times and, in the process, the story is lost in the muddle; clouded by an even thicker haze than the busy smoke machines on the stage floor.

This production of Jekyll and Hyde is noble in its intentions, and undeniably propelled by bold ambition, it is a work that is ultimately diluted by biting off more than even Hyde could chew. Sometimes, less truly is more.

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Reviewed 29/07/15

By Greg Wetherall
@gregwetherall

28th July – 8th August 2015
The Platform Theatre, London N1C 4AA

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