Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Review
by Kevin Mathew
The compelling gothic tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde falls unfortunately flat in this rather long and winding adaptation by David Edgar. Kate Saxon’s direction for the Touring Consortium Theatre Company fails to bring the full scope of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella to life, and the result is an unsatisfactory mishmash of never fully-expressed comedy, thriller and tragedy.
For an actor with such prestigious theatre credits as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Court, Phil Daniels is particularly disappointing. Playing both the role of Dr Jekyll and that of Mr Hyde, Daniels’ performance is rigid and static as one, and over-exaggerated as the other. The manufactured Mr. Hyde was particularly disappointing, as it portrayed none of the terror that the classic character holds, even though the play has both rape and murder in its script. The inclusion of some worn out jokes and the incessant use of puns around the name ‘Hyde’ turned the performance into a jumble of genres not effective in the slightest at conveying a good thriller. To be fair, however, Daniels’ Scottish accent throughout the play was well accomplished and earned multiple chuckles of approval from the audience. On that topic, the South West accent portrayed by Annie, Dr Jekyll’s maid, was “something to behold” according to the gentlemen in the audience who were congregated outside the bathrooms after the show. It was strong, nasal at times and well put together, although I myself was not completely won over by its use – a lighter accent would have suited the sombre register of the story more poignantly.
One aspect of this performance which managed to tick every box for me was the set, lighting and transitions between scenes. It was a fantastic display of theatrical prowess. The set was versatile, moving from scene to scene with elegance and subtlety, and the brilliant use of lighting demarcated and highlighted scenes very well. The lighting went on to be a key aspect in foreshadowing danger, terror and fear, as well as symbolising the key theme of light versus darkness – the dominance of shadows often overwhelmed the presence of light.
This adaptation introduced developed female characters originally absent in Stevenson’s tale, such as Jekyll’s sister, Catherine, through whom we were able to explore Jekyll’s difficult relationship with his father and Annie, who assists in releasing Hyde’s barbarity. Many characters felt too artificially constructed, however, and rendered the story dull, the mishmash of genres leaving a bitter aftertaste. These genres would have deserved deeper individual exploration, perhaps by choosing either comedy or horror, which would have helped push this play towards a better review.
Nevertheless, the highlighting of peripheral characters and the addition of new characters was a very interesting move from the source text. The production team made excellent work with the set and lighting: I highly commend their approach towards the story and admit they are the main reason to give kudos to this production. Although not a must-watch, this performance was far from unbearable and provided many moments of visual stimulation and theatrical enjoyment.