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Unexpectedly invigorating Jekyll and Hyde at The Cockpit Theatre

Jekyll & Hyde Hyde (Oliver Hume) and a victim (Stuart Horobin
Jekyll & Hyde Hyde (Oliver Hume) and a victim (Stuart Horobin

An elegant set greets the audience filing in for Jekyll & Hyde, and as the original novel gave fairly isolated accounts of events which readers could piece together at leisure, it was interesting to see the story come to life in a more traditional fashion. Unfolding the narrative in a linear progression may not exactly be a completely faithful rendering of the source material, but all things considered, to have replicated the novel in this way would have left the show disjointed.

It was, arguably, a little disjointed anyway, because of its resetting from the 1880s to the 1930s. The television drama Downton Abbey, for example, went no further than 1925, as domestic servanthood as a profession (for want of a better word) declined. The series would have lost credibility had it continued. Here, Dr Jekyll (Oliver Hume) retains the full-time, live-in services of Poole (Stuart Horobin), and while Poole plays an important role, it inescapably strikes me as slightly odd that his character wasn’t adapted a little more to be in closer keeping with its setting.

There are plenty of musical interludes (a whole list of songs takes up half a page in the programme), some more fitting than others. Most of the time it served as light-hearted breaths of fresh air, contrasting the dark narrative. I rather enjoyed these dips into the Great American Songbook, although I would have thought others may have found it distracting – exhausting even, as we repeatedly go from listening to music (sung with great enthusiasm by Nicola Foxfield and Sarah Gain) to progressing with the story and back again.

Either way, I would never have thought, for example, the line ‘There may be trouble ahead’ from Irving Berlin’s Let’s Face the Music and Dance could be used to such great effect in such a different context as this. But even I have to admit that I’m not fully confident all of the numbers were directly, or even indirectly, relevant to the narrative. Even so, the show would have been more intense without all the music – it’s made more pleasant (or at least, less unpleasant) done this way.

The set remains exactly the same from start to finish, and although some lighting effects help, the script bears the brunt of establishing location and setting – those familiar with the Jekyll & Hyde story will be aware that not everything happens in one place. But it could sometimes be a while before it’s exactly clear where we are, which detracted a little from some fine acting with this small but robust cast.

Horobin plays multiple characters with equal conviction, and there are engaging performances from Daniel Blacker as solicitor John Utterson, and Sarah Gain as Constance. Both their characters retain an extraordinary loyalty to Jekyll, the consequences of which you’ll discover if you go along and see the show (ahem).

This is a confident adaptation, and a very fluid one at that, and can be enjoyed just as much by those who have read the novel and seen many adaptations over the years as well as those who are encountering the story for the first time. The dialogue is laced with humour and wit, and the play would otherwise have been extremely foreboding indeed. As it is, it’s a full-bodied experience – I went in expecting something relentlessly and unapologetically gloomy, and I found it unexpectedly invigorating. A horror story that left me humming a Gershwin tune on the way out? This has to be seen to be believed!

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Cockpit Presents
A Blue Orange Theatre Production
London’s streets are awash with fear.
A dark and sinister figure prowls through the fog…. but what is the link between this mysterious man and the respectable Dr Jekyll?

Set against a backdrop of sultry Jazz standards with a live pianist, The Blue Orange Theatre bring their adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of addiction, murder, sex, violence and desire to the stage.

by Eric Gracey based on the novel by Robert Louis Stephenson
Cast: Daniel Blacker, Nicola Foxfield, Sarah Gain, Stuart Horobin, Oliver Hume
Director: Mark Webster.

Wednesday 13th January to Saturday 6th February 2016


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