Leonard H. Caddy’s adaptation of the infamous novella by Robert Louis Stevenson made its way to The Playhouse stage.
Set in Dr Henry Jekyll (Adrian Wyman)’s parlour as the man himself is on the brink of his great discovery; upon a discussion of the weights of human brains, we are introduced to Dr Jekyll’s friend Utterson (Sion Grace), Dr Lanyon (Antony Newby) and his neice Celestine (Corinna Leader), butler Poole (Kevin Evans) and bumbling maid Charlotte (Megan Leask-Walters).
Jekyll seeks to unlock the mysteries of the mind, explaining that he wants to understand God’s creation before all the conventions society has placed on human beings have influenced it. When Charlotte succumbs to an emotional outburst after more than a little snobbery from Celestine, Jekyll realises he might have found his missing ingredient, and sends the household to bed so he can continue his work.
Experimenting on himself, he soon finds himself in a battle between the violent and id driven Edward Hyde, and the calm and caring Henry Jekyll.
Without a leading man capable of carrying off two such distinct characters, Caddy’s script could easily fall flat – but thankfully both men are in the talented hands of Adrian Wyman, a performer who never fails to impress. His transformation into Hyde is achieved through his wonderfully dramatic change in body language, and descent into a gravelly cockney voice. At times, he was genuinely terrifying to watch in his most aggressive moments.
Also impressing was Megan Leask-Walters as Charlotte – a truly confident delivery of a character who is somewhat put through the ringer. Leask-Walters presented her with a sense of wide eyed charm and innocence, but also a good deal of humour.
Corinna Leader’s Celestine was curt and superior, creating a superb contrast to Hyde’s lover, Penny (Nicola Bunting) – the way the two discuss their differing abilities to love due to their class and upbringing reflected the changing personality of the man they both wanted to claim as their own. Evans’ Poole was, in contrast to the gentle parlour maids (including Maggie Holland as a jovial Hilda), aggressive and blunt, even when discussing his concerns about his master, while Grace’s Utterson and Newby’s Dr Lanyon prove excellent debating partners for Jekyll, providing an opposite opinions at times but never letting their conversations descend into an argument, and show a real concern for the inflicted Doctor as the show reaches its climax.
Mark Mortimer and Weekes Baptiste‘s set (with furniture from The Bakehouse) is every inch the spooky Victorian parlour, deep red with an array of scientific prints on the walls. We’re also treated to Jekyll’s equally spooky laboratory, adorned with a skeleton no less. Technically, the show was lit simply, and perhaps could have benefited from more atmospheric lighting to really bring home the Gothic nature of the story.
At times, the script is dangerously on the wordy side, leaning heavily on exposition rather than action to move the plot forwards. That, combined with the frequent scene changes, meant that the production felt a little over-long and under-paced during the 1h30m first act, but the energy improves in the second act as the tension increases.
Perhaps lacking a little on the atmosphere, but packed with great performances, and is a faithful re-telling of the classic story of good versus evil.
Performance: Wednesday 31 October 2018, The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton
Jekyll and Hyde runs at The Playhouse Theatre, Clare Street, to 3 November 2018. Tickets cost £9 and £8 for concessions and may be booked by telephoning the box office on 01604 627791 (answerphone) or
by emailing email@example.com Visit the website for more details.
Rebecca is a theatre lover originally from Birmingham. She founded On Stage Northants in 2017, and is passionate about promoting Northampton performing arts. Can usually be found behind the scenes, and occasionally in front of them too. Bec also blogs at StageyRebel