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Jekyll and Hyde at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

You need not have read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to know what is meant when someone is referred to as being like ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. I would have thought you could read it in a single sitting – it’s more of a novella than a full-length novel – so I was curious to discover how this stage adaptation managed to stretch the narrative out to a full-length play that can justify having an interval. A different production which toured earlier in 2022 had a running time of sixty minutes and covered all the salient points and more quite sufficiently.

JEKYLL & HYDE (Derby Theatre and Queen's Theatre Hornchurch) - credit Grant Archer.
JEKYLL & HYDE (Derby Theatre and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch) – credit Grant Archer.

At the centre of this play is Dr Stevenson (Polly Lister), the first woman doctor to be ‘admitted’ – meaning hired – at a London hospital. She treats The Girl (Tife Kusoro) who is admitted (in the usual sense of someone being admitted to a hospital) after a savage attack by an unknown person. Not all the doctor’s actions entirely make sense – having berated Gabriel Utterson (Robert Vernon), an apparent witness to the crime, for not having contacted the police, she doesn’t do so herself, instead taking it upon herself to work out what went on, as though this were an episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Jekyll’s medical colleagues struggle to get their heads around the possibility of a good person committing evil acts. This adaptation subtly brings misogyny to the forefront of proceedings, with a working-class girl’s word against those of suited and booted well-to-do men. That said, it doesn’t help that some of the girl’s exclamations were, at least to me, frankly indecipherable. As for Jekyll (Nicholas Shaw), he’s around for the first half, but doesn’t have much to do, let alone say, as the dialogue centres instead on Utterson, the girl and Mr Enfield (Craig Painting) recollecting what happened in the small hours of the morning (and why, exactly, were there they all out at 3:00am?). It is only after the interval that the audience hears at length from Jekyll, and therefore from Hyde, hearing about the chain of events that led up to the attack, and beyond, from a different perspective.

The second half (technically, the final third, as the second half is considerably shorter than the first) is also where the audience finally gets to see Jekyll’s laboratory and the concoction of chemicals. At the press night performance, some of the liquid spilled onto the floor, presumably unintentionally, but otherwise, the demonstration of mixing certain substances to create the potion necessary for personality transformation is impressive, as is the show’s lighting design (Simeon Miller and Adam Jefferys).

It slips into melodrama towards the end, even if it is somewhat counterbalanced by comic relief from Enfield in an earlier scene filled with dark humour. Overall, though, it’s a convincing adaptation that stays faithful to the original text whilst introducing more contemporary elements that are both thoughtful and insightful.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Dr Jekyll is well respected but when he makes a momentous scientific discovery, it spins him into a double life in which inner demons threaten to take control.

In the streets of Victorian London, respectability is mixed with murder. As two identities begin to blur, we are invited to delve into what makes Jekyll tick. Why do the bystanders choose to let him get out of control, as he battles to defeat the monstrous alter-ego inside?

A Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Derby Theatre production
Jekyll & Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by Neil Bartlett
Directed by Sarah Brigham

Adaptor Neil Bartlett
Director Sarah Brigham
Designer Jessica Curtis
Composer Ivan Stott
Movement Director Deborah Pugh
Lighting Designer Simeon Miller
Associate Lighting Designer Adam Jefferys
Voice Coach Anita Gilbert
Magic Consultant Philip Bond of PMB Theatre & Exhibition Services Ltd
Assistant Director Omar Khan
Casting Director Kay Magson
Producer Stuart Allen

Listings
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch Wednesday 26 October – Saturday 12 November 2022
https://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/

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1 thought on “Jekyll and Hyde at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch”

  1. Friend and I were very disappointed. Too much talking from the characters. It all had such potential and sound effects and actors were good but felt soulless and a bit messy. The best bit was a dance from the gents. It would have been better as a musical and more centred on Jekyll and Hyde. I would give it two stars.

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