It all boded well as we entered the auditorium of the superb space that’s the fairly new (opened in 2011) Platform Theatre which is part of the exciting University of the Arts cultural complex in King’s Cross. The large stage was steeply raked towards the audience and covered in Victorian furniture and other paraphernalia of the period. The ceiling was hung with a myriad of Chinese paper lanterns – whether this was because the play was being performed by the Chung Ying Theatre Company from Hong Kong or because part of the play concerned a visit to Chinese prostitutes, I don’t know but whatever the reason it certainly added to the atmosphere.
The company of six actors entered the stage in dramatic fashion in mask-like white face with vivid black markings in the Chinese tradition which is meant to symbolize the character’s personality. The atmosphere was heightened by the superb soundscape as well as the smoke and light coming up from the grills in the floor of the stage and it looked as if we were set for an interesting and original evening. Unfortunately what looked as if it was going to be an unconventional telling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s masterwork turned out to be a fairly conventional “reimagining” with the twist being that Dr Jekyll was a woman whose experiments with mind-altering drugs turns her into a man in order to gain revenge over her male abusers. (For some reason the drug was referred to by one of the characters as LSD which wasn’t synthesised until 1938!). Whether Jonathan Holloway the writer/director is trying to make a point about feminism I’m not sure but if he is, I’m not sure that it’s made clear enough.
The marketing blurb said the play was “suspended between macabre cabaret and Victorian melodrama” – the cabaret element coming from some of the actors playing instruments and special mention must go to Simon Spencer-Hyde (I presume no relation!) on accordion and clarinet.
However the melodrama was just that but not in a good way as the dialogue was stilted and trite – considering what a great work the play was based on. The other big disappointment was the uneven standard of acting by some of the cast which at times was not up to standard.
They worked very hard, playing instruments, dancing, disappearing behind sliding and revolving doors – and in one instance leaping through a trap door in the stage but the movement, the make-up and the excellent staging just masked (both literally and metaphorically) some very ordinary acting and a very average script.
Review by Alan Fitter
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