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JEKYLL & HYDE at St Nicolas’ Church, Guildford

Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic Gothic horror novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published in 1886, just 10 years after the magnificent St. Nicolas’ Church was completed. This fabulous Victorian Church is an absolutely perfect location for this production. Caroline Devlin has adapted Stevenson’s novella into a play for one actor, this is GSC’s first one-person show and Director Marieke Audsley has worked hard to find the means to best utilise this stunning venue.

Jekyll and Hyde - Matt Pereira.
Jekyll and Hyde – Matt Pereira.

The play begins with two cousins Richard Enfield and Gabriel John Utterson strolling through the London streets discussing a recent violent crime. Enfield has witnessed the appalling Mr Hyde trample on a young girl and having confronted him insists that he duly compensate the girl’s family. When Hyde arrives with the cheque, he is shocked to find that it is signed by the respectable Dr Jekyll. The cousins become convinced that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll and Utterson sets out to solve the ensuing mystery.

Though there may only be one cast member, the breathtakingly wonderful Samuel Collings, the list of characters he plays is a long one: 9 in total. Despite this it is always straightforward for the audience to know which character Samuel is playing, as he seamlessly transforms into each part, using a distinct voice and exhibiting specific mannerisms. Collings reinforces each transformation by way of the addition of simple props, such as a cane or a change of hat or jacket. Quite how Samuel remembers which part he is playing is somewhat of a mystery to me. Surely this is the greatest challenge an actor can face, to perform in these in-depth multi-role productions alone with no off time or cues from other actors. I was captivated by this performance; Samuel barely pauses for breath throughout. The scene where he transforms from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde, in particular, was quite exhausting to watch. I’m sure it must have been even more exhausting to perform.

Although this is technically a horror story the production is ideal for families; it is just over an hour long, the excitement never lets up and it is not too graphic in its depiction of violence. A young audience member near me was still applauding when many of the audience were leaving the venue.

4 stars

Review by Sally Knipe

In this electrifying adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Victorian gothic horror, a single actor, SAMUEL COLLINGS, plays all characters including the titular Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. This stage adaptation has been especially reworked for the evocative St Nicolas’ Church in Guildford.

JEKYLL & HYDE
15 October – 05 November (26 perfs)
Guildford Shakespeare Company
St Nicolas’ Church, Guildford
Press Night Tuesday 18 October, 8pm
(running time 65 mins approx.)

Adapted by Caroline Devlin from Robert Louis Stevenson’s original novella
Directed by Marieke Audsley
https://www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk/

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