Since its first publication in 1886, Robert Louis
The script, however, is this show’s major failing, not least in its misfiring attempt to update Jekyll’s Victorian world with cash-machines and suggestions of criminal executions being on pay-per-view (with all profits going to Children In Need).
Which, in part, is why this unfortunate misfire of a production by Sell a Door Theatre Company is so disappointing; attempting to expand and recast Stevenson’s tale as a wider warning against scientific orthodoxies which negate any responsibility for their consequences, Jo Clifford’s script is on occasions so cack-handed in its info-dumping, so amateurishly scatter-gun in its vision of “an alternative London of the future”– er, how can you even have an “alternative” to something which hasn’t happened yet? –that this production needs a captivating star turn to carry the audience along.
Sadly, while there is indeed an outstanding performer on stage, Rowena Lennon is not the lead; she may have plenty of opportunities to show off her flexibility and range (from a weary Dr Lanyon to a hostile Eastern European bodyguard and asomewhat naive audience member who volunteers for Hyde’s music hall-esquedemonstration of his torturous proclivities), but it’s not enough to save the show.
Clifford has, like many other adaptators, gone for a linear telling of the narrative where the dramatic tension comes from the rising conflict between Jekyll/Hyde as well as the prospect of justice finally catching up with both. With little direct sense of the growing public abhorrence of Hyde, there is little hope of the latter; Nathan Ives-Moiba's lithe, gymnastic portrayal, meantime, is sadly too emotionally one-dimensional to engage much audience sympathy with either Jekyll (a velvet-coated dandy with a new Romantic love of frilled shirts and lean flesh) or his wicked-grinned, fake-Cockney Hyde.
That, in itself, is a worrying artistic decision on either Clifford’s or director David Hutchinson’s part; that a malign working class Hyde is contrasted with Jekyll’s well-spoken philanthropy. However, Clifford alone must carry responsibility for ensuring that the only two of Jekyll/Hyde’s victims we see on stage are both woman –the desperate “audience member”, and a gender-switched Lanyon, disgustingly given the added “burden” of physical impairment.
That said, much of the production of the show is excellent: Richard Evans’revolving set – all scaffolding, steps and a cogs motif – enables some inventive choreography alone to distinguish between scenes, while Charlie Morgan Jones’atmospheric lighting does wonders.
The script, however, is this show’s major failing, not least in its misfiring attempt to update Jekyll’s Victorian world with cash-machines and suggestions of criminal executions being on pay-per-view (with all profits going to Children In Need). These touches are achronistic in a world that still feels Victorian, with dialogue that sounds clunky to modern ears. Worst of all, how can anyone believe in a 2020 world where no one has ever heard of Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?