Based on the book by: Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by: Nick Lane
Based on the seminal book by Robert Louis Stevenson, the stage adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde follows an eminent scientist, Dr Henry (Harry) Jekyll (played by Blake Kubena) in his quest to truly understand the human psyche.
As his experiments grow ever more precarious, despite warnings from friend Hastings Lanyon (Ashley Sean-Crook) urging him to stop before he goes too far, Jekyll’s obsession takes charge – and he begins, fatally, to use himself as a test subject. And so begins the transformation into another, evil self – the duality of man on which the ‘strange case’ of Jekyll and Hyde is famously based.
In the stage play, the cast is made up of four performers, each playing a multitude of characters, with the exception of our lead narrator, solicitor Gabriel Utterson (Zach Lee), who stays in character to guide us through the story. With a stripped-back set and light touch costume changes, the pressure is on the actors to convey their characters with body language, intonation, and stage presence.
Overall, they do a good job. The different accents slip sometimes (particularly Paige Round’s when playing Irish ‘songbird’ Eleanor O’Donnell), and there’s some over-exaggeration that feels very ‘acting’, but with Kubena as a strong lead, supported by the nuanced portrayal of Hastings Lanyon by Sean-Cook, it’s a well-rounded piece.
The pace is a little off, particularly through the first half, which does begin to drag on, eliciting audible squeaks from the audience’s chairs as they shuffle around, and the energy starts to droop. It’s pulled back just before the interval, though, with an intense and engaging slow-motion combat scene which is genuinely impressive to watch. In the second half, it steps up a bit, and Sean-Cook in particular delivers some one-liners that make people chuckle.
While probably best watched by avid theatregoers who are familiar with the original book, and enjoy fiction from the gothic era, rather than those hoping for a casual night at the theatre, it’s an enjoyable evening out. The musical score is atmospheric, the cast performs well, and the plot raises some moral and ethical questions that, as is often the case with classic works, are as relevant today as they were when Stevenson first devised the concept.
Runs until 13th November 2021