Two different productions in two days by the same young cast of 16 on the same stage. This is a significant undertaking by the most experienced of actors so for a group of young performers to attempt it is very impressive – and they have succeeded in the task.
This adaptation turns the story of Jekyll and Hyde on its head. Rather than following the story that is well known, this “reimagining” focuses on Mrs. Jekyll, one year after Dr. Jekyll’s death. The story still utilises the transformation of Mrs. Jekyll to Lady Hyde relying on the potions created by the late Dr. but it goes much further – exploring the inequality faced by women in that era. Throughout the first act, there is an unexplained “link” to the modern day that makes a frequent appearance – and it is that “link” that forms the basis of much of the second act which takes the story on an unexpected twist; pushing the audience to face and consider more current inequalities.
I don’t want to give away the twist, but it takes the focus of the production somewhere new… and here lies my criticism of this production – I don’t know that it worked. I get the message that it was sending out, and it certainly achieved the aim of wanting to talk about the themes and issues presented in the second act; the twists and turns of the second act were, for the most part, unexpected but some of it just didn’t work for me. It may be a personal thing – and others may disagree.
That is all the story though and not the production; so what of the challenging bar that this company set itself? As with Othello the night before, the production was impressive. Two very wordy pieces of theatre were executed with precision and a quality that would challenge many professional productions I have seen. The cast were, again, excellent – from the ensemble members through to the leading characters. There were plenty of laughs – the comedy of the piece was well executed throughout, but also lots of thought-provoking moments. Particular credit (in relation to the former) should be given to Mohammed Mansaray’s priest, Rosella Doda’s Abbie/Lucy and the trio of “ladies” played by Leah Gaffey, Amarah Jae St. Aubyn and Rebecca Hesketh-Smith who delivered the comedy with good timing and plenty of humour.
Marc Benga provided a strong performance as Gabriel Utterson, the Police Officer charged with investigating the death of Dr. Jekyll. He gave us a conflicted character and you could feel the difficulties he faced in maintaining his moral compass – a fully believable performance.
Jenny Walser brought a compelling performance of Florence Monroe – the modern link piece and the central character in Act 2. Her character was excellent throughout and her treatment of Douglas Wood’s DC Lawrence was totally engaging.
As with Othello the night before, the lighting design and set design was extremely impressive. The almost “sleight of hand” style of moving set pieces throughout the production was inspired and meant that the production was non-stop. Congratulations to both Laura Hopkins (Set Design) and Amy Mae (Lighting Design) for again reminding us that attention to detail in these areas can really enhance (or break) a production. Costume worked well – I particularly liked the Jekyll/Hyde costume which looked stunning but was designed in such a way as to enable the transformations to be quick and therefore keep the production flowing.
The ultimate plaudits, however, must go to Elizabeth McCafferty who gave an electric performance in the Jekyll/Hyde role. Her portrayal of the beautiful, poised, socially upstanding Mrs Jekyll was exquisitely executed and thoroughly believable. Similarly, her portrayal of the equally beautiful but morally questionable Lady Hyde was electric, engaging and somewhat disturbing! What really made her performance stand out, however, was the transformation between the two – both the physicality of the transformation scenes which was performed to perfection and also the ease with which she adopted the other character – switching apparently seamlessly and delivering two incredible characters at 100%. This young lady is an exceptional talent.
A review of two halves. I didn’t wholly connect with the material (although I did find it whirring through my mind so it achieved its aim) but the production was absolutely brilliant.
Review by Paul Wilson
Everyone has another face they hide behind… The National Youth Theatre REP Company invite you into the world of Victorian England, where civilised society meets seedy Soho for a thrilling new adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde from award-winning playwright Evan Placey (Consensual, Girls Like That) Directed by Roy Alexander Weise (Mountaintop, JMK 2016 Winner), this classic tale of secrets, deceit and revenge will be brought to life by some of Britain’s most exciting emerging talent on one the West End’s most historic stages.
West Street, London, WC2H 9ND
Tuesday 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Wednesday 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Booking to 6th December 2017