Saturday, 15 December 2018

No place to Hyde...

WITH morose granite buildings, eerie and urgent music and clever lighting, this production of Jekyll and Hyde pulled no punches

Jekyll and Hyde

Theatre Royal, Windsor
Monday, May 9

WITH morose granite buildings, eerie and urgent music and clever lighting, this production of Jekyll and Hyde pulled no punches.

It was straight in at the deep end with a violent murder on the street, so the melodrama in this interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Victorian gothic horror story was there from the off.

Eminent MP Sir Danvers Carew has been beaten to death with a heavy cane. Respectable lawyer Gabriel Utterson (Neil Roberts) is one of those pulled in for questioning by the police as the MP had on his person a letter addressed to him.

We see how morally upstanding the lawyer is as he honours client confidentiality, refusing to open the letter, and confirms he believes in the purity of the letter of the law.

Mr Utterson says he has heard of the man believed responsible, Mr Edward Hyde (a vibrant Andrew Fettes), and that he has a face with such hideous features that people would recoil in disgust, yet he cannot accurately recall it.

There followed one of many nicely played out flashback interactions, whereby a character would start to relay a set of events (or read a letter) before fading into the background as these events would then be acted out and appear to us first-hand — a neat trick which made everything feel more real. In this incident, as Mr Utterson’s good friend Richard Enfield had been taking a stroll, a girl is beaten on the street in front of witnesses and the baying crowd demands justice be meted out in the form of a £100 penalty to avoid scandal.

Enfield steps in and the man says he can pay £10 in gold and provide a cheque for the rest from a highly honourable gentleman, which he fetches quickly from what turns out to be Henry Jekyll’s premises. Thus we are intrigued.

A good friend of Mr Utterson’s, Henry Jekyll (Gary Turner) has recently altered his will so that in the event of his death, or should he disappear for more than three months, the sole beneficiary would be Mr Hyde.

While Jekyll appears to be behaving normally at first, his maid Mrs Poole (Kim Taylforth) becomes increasingly concerned, as he is prone to locking himself in his laboratory — the same laboratory to which Mr Hyde is known to have access.

His close friend, Dr Hastie Lanyon, is suddenly taken desperately ill due to some shocking events, and when Mr Utterson sees him, he insists on giving him a confidential letter to be read after Dr Lanyon has died.

Meanwhile, Jekyll’s erratic behaviour in his laboratory, with its fluorescent test tubes, Bunsen burners and bubbling potions, hints at his internal strife.

We were then treated to a maelstrom of emotions and gesticulations as it becomes apparent that Jekyll has found a way of externalising his inner demons but that it is gradually getting out of control.

The simplicity of effects was magnificent, with good old sleight of hand lending us to believe that one man could feasibly physically split his good and evil sides into two.

With strong players and great banter between upstanding lawyer and down-to-earth detectives, and Jekyll and his cohorts, this felt like a fresh interpretation of a timeless classic.

Until Saturday.

Review: Natalie Aldred

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