Producers Let Them Call It Mischief, specialise in taking classic novels and turning them into comedies. In the past, they’ve adapted A Christmas Carol, Sherlock Holmes and Dracula and now they’ve turned their talents to adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde” at The Pleasance Theatre.
Along with shortening the title to Jekyll & Hyde, they’ve done away with most of the plot! Hyde is still Jekyll’s evil alter ego but he’s also Mayor of London and looking for the cure for cholera (or is he?!) whilst murdering people! However, the plot, flimsy as it is, is just a device for writers Danny Wainwright and Daniel Hallissey to wring as many laughs as they can from the story and not only from Victorian England!
Jekyll & Hyde is the epitome of metatheatre with knowing winks to the audience and the continuous breaking of the fourth wall. There are also non-sequiturs, jokes about Trump – Mayor Jekyll’s slogan is “Make London Great Again”, the Daily Maul (sic) and other modern day references such as a shortage of courgettes. They also exhaust the play on words where Hyde can be replaced by hide e.g. hide and seek and can’t resist referring to the Day Of The Jekyll – no pun goes unturned! There are also some clever references to the Frost Report’s famous class sketches and May & Nicholls “John and Martha” sketch although I’m not sure how many of the audience would have got the references as they both date back to the sixties!
Whilst the gags come thick and fast, at nearly ninety minutes, it felt like some judicious editing would have made this an even better piece of theatre. At sixty minutes, this would have been perfect for the various fringe festivals such as Edinburgh and Brighton and some of the flab could have been cut; The Pleasance is a big space and it just felt a little lost. Whilst they made good use of the theatre’s revolving stage, there were only two basic sets – inside various houses and outside in a “London Street” and it seemed that they were using the revolve because it was there.
At one time, it seemed as if we were in for a musical comedy when one of the characters sang a parody of Sondheim’s “Miracle Elixir” from “Sweeney Todd” (I hope they have permission!) but that was the only real song which seemed a little strange. Also, one of the characters heard a voice in his head (and so did the audience) but that was dropped after a while only to be brought back at the end which seemed a little odd that it hadn’t been used throughout.
The cast of four were all very good with the stand-out being Elliott Ross who had to play seven different characters – sometimes playing two at the same time! Andrew Venning’s comic timing as Jekyll’s friend John Utterson was excellent as was Alyssa Noble as Martha. Graham Ewell as the eponymous Jekyll & Hyde towered over the rest of the cast but didn’t really exude enough evil as Hyde although his Phantom mask was fun. Special mention must go to the sound design from Phil Matejtschuk which added an extra layer to the production – one thunder clap made some of the audience jump out of their seats.
With some judicious pruning of some dud jokes and a smaller more intimate space, Jekyll & Hyde would be great fun. There are homages to Monty Python and Spike Milligan running throughout – it is as the Python’s might have said “very silly” but it could it could have even sillier still.
Review by Alan Fitter
Jekyll and Hyde meets Blackadder via Monty Python, with just a hint of Spike Milligan. Set against the backdrop of Victorian London complete with Cholera and everything, Let Them Call It Mischief return to the Pleasance with their uniquely quirky and hilarious all-new adaptation of Robert Louise Stevenson’s Gothic classic, Jekyll and Hyde.
When it looks like there is no hope, well-respected philanthropist Dr Henry Jekyll emerges as the potential saviour of London. The new Mayor of London has some big plans to rid the city of the evils that have been dragging it down. Everyone thinks he’s great, especially his friend and his solicitor who happen to be the same person, John Utterson. However, when shady criminal Hyde starts knocking over children and prominent people start disappearing or ‘mysteriously accidentally on purposely’ get stabbed, Utterson is compelled to bring Hyde to justice – and uncovers some troubling truths along the way. Will Utterson win his game of ‘Hyde and Seek’ and is there more to Jekyll than meets the eye? The answer is yes…but how, what and why? And where? And with whom?
Join “larger than life and laugh out loud” (WhatsOnStage) Let Them Call It Mischief take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic with their trademark “boisterous hilarity” (The Stage). Known for their irreverent re-workings of classic texts, Let Them Call It Mischief return to the Pleasance for the fifth time having previously produced: The London Cuckolds, The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes, A Christmas Carol and Dracula.
Jekyll & Hyde
23rd May 2017 – 10th Jun 2017
Main House – Pleasance London