JEKYLL & HYDE
By Jonathan Holloway from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Central St Martin’s, 1 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London N1C 4AA.
Tues – Sat 8pm.
Runs 1hr 35 mins. No interval. To 08 08 15
Review: William Russell 29 July.
RLS reinvented but not improved upon.
There are some evenings in the theatre which can leave one poleaxed by what one has just seen and this rethinking of Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde by Jonathan Holloway is such an evening. I staggered into the night humming that song about the king being in the altogether because actually the programme notes suggest that others have seen it and found much to admire. ‘Clever, creepily melodramatic and beautifully realised’ said one review, ‘strangely brilliant’ said another. Perhaps they are right.
But it was certainly not my cup of tea, although Jonathan Holloway who conceived the piece is an undeniably inventive director and his cast perform everything required of them with skill and enthusiasm.
The gimmick is to rewrite Stevenson’s story making Hyde an East European woman scientist called Tajemnica who has been so abused in some war zone or other towards the end of the 19th Century. She has been so traumatised that she is in London seeking safety by turning herself into a man. Unfortunately with the same results Stevenson’s creation Hyde endured when he turned into Jekyll.
The lascivious lady becomes a homicidal male. Olivia Winteringham is striking as the lady with two facets, and manages to be extremely threatening when she needs to be although when it comes to speaking the lines she sounds oddly monotonous.
There is nothing wrong with the playing, but dramatically the thing limps along catastrophically. Just why a strange publisher should be negotiating to buy the manuscript of the book about the affair between Hyde/Jekyll and a randy young lawyer who refuses to commit to his girlfriend after she has allowed him to have his wicked way, and then does the same with Tajemnica is anybody’s guess.
In fact what is happening tends to be rather hard to work out, but the necessarily ominous atmosphere is certainly conjured up. However, in spite of the play having been performed all over the country last year, which would suggest there is an audience for it, I still think the king has no clothes to speak of and Mr Holloway’s avowed intention to appropriate and invigorate the story for contemporary audiences has not been achieved.
One reviewer said of a previous production that one would want to see this again and again. He is on his own as far as I am concerned. Once was quite enough.
Director: Jonathan Holloway.
Designer: Neil Irish.
Composer & Sound Designer: Jon Nicholls.
Lighting Designer: Jonathan Holloway.