Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde at the Greenwich Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde at the Greenwich Theatre
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde at the Greenwich Theatre
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14 Feb REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde at the Greenwich Theatre

Philanthropist Dr Henry Jekyll is an oddly familiar character. Dedicating his life to helping others, to curing cancer, and to raising money for abused children; even texting his name to a special hotline donates £20 (!) to charity. Handsome, successful, and powerful he’s a public figure, lauded for his goodness, and for his unrivalled contribution to society. But for a man whose life’s work rests in the hands of his reputation, he harbours a dark secret deep inside, one which threatens to expose itself when, as part of his very public campaign against cancer, his research into cell alteration stumbles across a way of splitting the “good” from the “evil” inside him.

A compelling look at the more cynical, narcissistic face of charity, this mesmerising adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic horror, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde gives new vigour and expression to the 1886 classic. Set in the near future, it is darkened beyond what would have been tolerated by Stevenson’s Victorian readers, and is, at times, uncomfortable to watch. Uncomfortable because of the sadistic sexual and violent overtones, but also uncomfortable at moments when we’re forced to confront the duality (albeit less damaging) that exists inside everyone.

In the characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the two sides of the same coin are expressed in posture, gait and voice, in a way that allows lead actor Nathan Ives-Moiba to slip into and out of the different skins effortlessly. As he becomes the terrible Mr Hyde, a plummy home counties accent gives way to an Estuary/cockney one, hunching over, disfigured, a physical manifestation of the bestial behaviour he indulges in. Although arguably a little over-simplistic, clichéd, and a bit too Dorian Gray, this works to differentiate between the characters, creating two very different identities.

Despite the idea of duality being reinforced by a perceptive, revolving set, the same space, in a different light, creating a very different scene, it has to be said that the format is slightly confused. It has the feel, almost but not quite, of a documentary; different elements of the story are told by different witnesses, and yet, for vast expanses of the show we are firmly inside the mind of our main protagonist(s), and outside the realms of what this master of PR would divulge in even the frankest of TV exposés. With vast swathes of the dialogue delivered front facing, the way the characters address the audience directly, aware of their existence, feels very odd, and it’s strange that what is a sophisticated piece of theatre opens with the characters quite literally introducing themselves as though it were the beginning of a panel show.

The unusual approach continues through the script, which is rich in detail, expressive and illuminating. The script itself would pass for a radio drama, without any need for staging, as it owns the detail of the emotions, thought processes and actions of the characters. Perhaps a way of making it more accessible, it permits the production team to overlay more interesting movement, but with this script they could have been bolder, or the script could have placed more trust in the actors to deliver the messages without vocalising them.

An ambitious, engaging and striking production, Jekyll and Hyde has the power to keep you awake at night. Despite the occasional shoehorned-in contemporary reference, this deeply sinister adaptation is as implicitly brutal as it is physical, and will get inside your mind as well as under your skin. Whether or not you want it to.

Venue: Greenwich Theatre
Dates: 11th – 14th February 2015 at the Greenwich Theatre, before touring
For tickets and information:
Image credit: Matthew Smith

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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