Theatre Review // The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde

The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde Adapted by Ross McGregor

At The Plowright Theatre.

Any update of a classic tale is usually met with derision by purists and are seldom welcomed. Often, good stories suffer lacklustre adaptations, or audiences are turned off by the idea of watching something classical, afraid that they’ll become lost in the parlance of the original source material. One way around this is to update said source material for modern audiences, so they can relate more to the subject matter. With adaptations such as this, a balance must be made, one that sticks close to the story, but injects enough of the today into it to make it relevant to a modern audience. Ross McGregor has done a stellar job of bringing the classic tale of Jekyll and Hyde screaming and foaming into the modern world, making it interesting enough by saying what if such a story was written today, how would it be executed? 

The bare bones of Robert Louis Stevenson’s original story are there, and sticks tightly to the plot, but albeit a modern twist. Jekyll is no longer a doctor, but a politician with presidential ambitions as the setting takes a transatlantic shift stateside, using the fear of secret sexuality in politics instead of the numerous “bachelors” of the original. The undertones that are hinted at in the novella are laid bare and unashamed in MacGregor’s version, as Jekyll and Hyde share stage time as a bona fide couple, causing the audience to question whether Hyde is a Fight Club figment, or a real flesh and blood character inhabiting his own space and time. Themes that Stevenson alluded to are proudly on show here, forming integral parts of the plot, whereas before, they were desires shrouded in darkness and innuendo.

This reimagining works well, and the cohesion with a modern script and setting is flawless. The main themes of tampering with science and the duality of man and his dark self are pillars of the plot, and are worked in with the modern setting. For a further blast of modernising the tale, most of the characters are now female, a welcome departure from the original where female characters were side-lined as victims and witnesses. The change seems natural and brings a welcome balance to mainly male driven story.

The small ensemble cast are brilliant, and it would be hard to pick a standout amongst them, because they all do an excellent job. Whether it’s injecting humour, horror or pathos into whatever is happening on stage.

Lucy Ioannou makes a dogged, but troubled Utterson in search of the truth in regards to Hyde and his relationship to Jekyll. Gabrielle Nellis-Pain aids the action as Poole, now no longer a butler, but someone who operates in the same shady circles of red light districts as Hyde, be it with and unjudging heart despite her occupation. Jekyll, played by Will Pinchin, plays the title character in two vastly different roles, one shy and in search of a cure for depression, and later in the narrative, the confident and idealistic mayor with hopes of changing the world.

Christopher Tester is a triumph as Hyde, again, like Jekyll, playing the character in two halves, one a love interest and the other, a malevolence that strides through the shadows, giving the play all the darkness it needs.

This updated version of Jekyll and Hyde hits all the right notes in sticking close to the original and whilst the numerous doses of modernity throughout ensures that the play you’re seeing has its finger on the pulse. Swipes are made at Trump, Coronavirus, US gun culture and enough pop culture references to keep action gliding along without feeling clunky or forced, but still relevant to matter.

The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde is currently touring the UK

Check the Arrow and Trap website for details.

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Review courtesy of N.Robinson

Published by Scunthorpe Nights

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