Director and Choreographer: Drew McOnie
A dance production filled with ideas, The Old Vic’s Jekyll and Hyde explores the concept of masculinity. Borrowing from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, this Jekyll and Hyde asks difficult questions about maleness, aggression and consent.
With a street lamp as a nod to Jekyll and Hyde’s late-Victorian roots, Soutra Gilmour’s set moves us forward to 1950’s London. We find Jekyll (Daniel Collins) working in a flower shop. Business is brisk, but it could be better. At night, he works on a formula to improve his stock.
Collins piles on the references for his beautifully detailed characterisation of Jekyll. Nervy and twitchy, Collins’ Jekyll is Pleasantville meets Harold Lloyd meets Clark Kent. Collins fills the stage with a comic energy – this nerdy diffidence makes him instantly likeable. As he greets one of his regular customers, Dahlia (played by Rachel Muldoon), we notice how his gentle sophistication charms her. As Dahlia and Jekyll foxtrot among the flowers, Collins and Muldoon have an easy chemistry that you can’t help but respond to. The stage is set for an Audrey and Seymour romance.
As Dahlia leaves, Jekyll notices she has left behind her purse – Jekyll sets off in pursuit. He cuts a tweedy swathe through the technicolour, post-war world outside his shop window. There is a tender moment of connection as he catches up with Dahlia, and they exchange business cards. On his way home, Jekyll passes a boxing club. The room is heady with sweat and bravado. Unsure of his chances with Dahlia, Jekyll cannot help but compare himself unfavourably. Returning to his shop, he continues to work on his plant formula into the night. The formula strikes gold: spraying it onto some lacklustre blooms, they become bolder, colourful, outrageous. He looks at the bottle of formula. The promise of transformation is too much to resist.
Filmed in 2016 with a live audience, this archive stream gives us a real hit of nostalgia. With original music by Grant Olding, Jekyll and Hyde captures the feel of the Fifties, moving from the wholesome veneer of teen idols such as Buddy Holly, to discordant tones as we are introduced to Jekyll’s alter ego, Mr Hyde (a suitably brutish Tim Hodges). By Act II, we see that Hyde is impulse uncontrolled, and the struggle to contain him is immense.
Directed by Drew McOnie, Jekyll and Hyde blends a range of dance styles to illustrate Stevenson’s narrative. While Dahlia and Jekyll dance in perfect ballroom harmony, Hyde swaggers across the stage, his cartoonish machismo demanding our attention. Dance may not seem like the most obvious translator of Stevenson’s work, but as a medium, it becomes emotional shorthand – useful when your story is the classic fable of good versus evil.
By transposing the Victorian novel’s fears about degeneracy into a Fifties landscape, Jekyll and Hyde explores concerns about masculinity and virility in a context that is easier for us to relate to. Jekyll’s desire to take up more space, become a commanding presence, is about more than just winning the girl. McOnie’s production goes further, examining the implications of toxic masculinity, from Jekyll’s feelings of inadequacy, to Hyde’s disregard of consent. These are issues that inevitably raise more questions than they answer, but when so much of Jekyll and Hyde is about what’s hidden, this production insists on not looking the other way. It’s a brave interpretation of a novel that suffers from over-exposure, and the challenge to make us look at it again with fresh purpose, is no mean feat. It is only in looking at the monster in full view that we really start to see the beast within.
Available here until 12 August 2020