Jonathan Holloway’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, in collaboration with Chung Ying Theatre Company, delivers a dull adaption of Stevenson’s extremely engaging novel.
The intriguing set by Neil Hirish, a promising apocalyptic scenario, creates high expectations which are never met. Shortly after the beginning of the play, the disappointingly comic appearance of the protagonist – as proved by the audience’s laughter – sets the tone of the entire production: expected (and eagerly awaited?) immorality and horror evoked by the room/laboratory put on stage clashes with the performances delivered.
The electrifying spin on the original story is that Jekyll is still a doctor, but Hyde is not (yet) as Mr. Holloway’s exploration into the ‘double’ is pursued through a charming female scientist from Eastern Europe, place of unspeakable violence which had forged her character. Such brilliant intuition goes unfortunately wasted: the typical Victorian stage melodrama is accentuated in favour of a sadly grotesque, rather than disturbing performance. Failing in focusing deeply on the painful and excruciating process of Jekyll’s transformation into a man, which would have provided place for important reflections upon gender problematics, medicine, self, power dynamics, and duality, the storyline accentuates instead the sentimental vein and exploits it to gain the audience’s favour.
Constantly stretching out to deliver torment and desperation, this play fails in doing so by leaving indefinite space to the love story between Tajemnica and Utterson to grow and affect the development of plot and characters. The exciting promise to be embarked upon an empathic journey through the spine-chilling consequences of men’s insatiable curiosity and eternal battle of a dual personality turns soon, and throughout the whole play, into a very predictable love story. There’s no sympathy with the events whatsoever.
The narrative focuses on the unfortunate relationship between Utterson and Jekyll; stealing space from the original and very important declinations of horror, gruesomeness, atrocity, and desperation, the success of the production is undoubtedly affected.
The lack of emotional intensity is mainly due to the monotonous performances delivered by the cast, seemingly more determined to crowd-please and play with double-entendres and innuendos, than to infuse the glorious story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with new life.
Two positive mentions are due. Both live music and sound choices are thrilling, much more than events and characters on stage. Similarly, the chorus is brilliant in keeping the audience’s attention alive, even in the slowest bits, by recalling attention on the development of the story.
Adaptations and revivals are unquestionably responsible for giving new compelling dimensions to well-known stories, by raising new questions through novel, less obvious, and exciting approaches. These are also especially responsible for securing the never-ending modernity of a play, however old it may be. ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, at Platform Theatre until 8th August, is unfortunately unable to accomplish this mission.
Review by Gabriella Infante
Chung Ying Theatre Company presents Jonathan Holloway’s JEKYLL & HYDE
Holloway’s audacious adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll & Hyde re-renders this dark tale of terror and suspense as a genuinely disturbing thriller for our time. Dr Jekyll is here cast as a fascinating and dangerous female scientist, who comes to England from the Balkans. Clearly tormented by unspeakable horrors in her past, she conducts bizarre scientific experiments as she seeks safety by becoming a man. Using her own body as her laboratory, physical self-harming mirrors the psychological damage she has endured.
Red Shift and Chung Ying’s innovative cultural exchange (four UK actors and two from Hong Kong) has enabled collaboration between an extraordinary team of established theatre-makers, encouraging them to bring their visceral energy and innovative creativity to Jekyll & Hyde. These include Olivia Winteringham (artistic director of performance ensemble KILN) as Jekyll and Graeme Rose (Co-founder of Stan’s Café and Red Shift Company Member).
JEKYLL & HYDE
Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martins
Tue 28th July to Sat 8th August 2015 (no show Sunday)
The show contains adult themes and language and is suitable for 14 years upwards
Running time is 1 hour 25 minutes with no interval.
Tickets are booked online and all seats are unreserved.
Tickets available to collect on the day of the performance from 6pm
Thursday 30th July 2015