JEKYLL AND HYDE
by Evan Placey,
Based on the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London WC2H 9ND to 6 December 2017.
In rep with Othello and Mrs Dalloway 7.30pm and some matinees 2.30pm. Check dates with theatre or on booking site as STOMP is also still running.
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7395 5405
Review: William Russell 11 October.
Stimulating new take on an oft told tale
The first surprise, although we are in Victorian England, is that Placey has chosen to look at those hardly seen persons in Stevenson’s tale – the women. is about Harriet Jekyll, an impressive Elizabeth McCafferty, who has taken over her late husband’s work and on taking the potion turns into Flossie Hyde, a woman no better than she should be, dealing out death to those who deserve it in a deeply hypocritical society.
Not sure that we are hardly told the stories of the women he lists in his note about the play – Emmeline Pankhurst, Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and so on – but what we seldom get, the endless Jack the Ripper rewrites apart, is much about life on the streets, about how women survived in a world dominated by men and run for men. Some women did break out but often it was the fact they had money that allowed them to do that. But that is by the by. He has wrought a most intriguing tale of then and now which works remarkably well as a play. Maybe more work is needed to tighten it up, but in the here and now what you get is already pretty good.
Place has also come up with a stunning first act curtain when everything we have watched is suddenly shown to be part of something else, and then Act two reveals what that something else is, the world of the blogger – a chilling performance from Jenny Walker as the person who wishes something might happen, but takes no responsibility when those who follow them fulfil the wish because they did not say do it.
He turns Stevenson’s tale on its head, uses it to good purpose, and has a lot to say about hypocrisy in society then and now, the abuse of power and the refusal to take responsibility for what one has done. Designer Laura Hopkins has worked wonders with the set, using curtains and doorways and walls which move round the stage so that swirling crowds appear and vanish. And director Roy Alexander gets good performances from the NYT cast. The claim is that these are stars of the future and, although it is a risky business, the NYT has some distinguished alumni so perhaps they are. What is evident is there is abundant talent on stage although in some cases not quite yet in control of the acoustics of the theatre.
Harriet Jekyll/Flossie Hyde: Elizabeth McCafferty.
Gabriel John Utterson: Marc Benga.
Florence Monroe: Jenny Walser.
Doctor Lanyon: Scott Oswald.
Ensemble: Rosella Doda; Douglas Wood; Amarah Jae St. Aubyn;Rebecca Hesketh-Smith; Curtis John Kemlo; Leo Shirley; Megan Burke: Eddie-Joe Robinson; Jamie Rose; Mohammed Mansaray.