Jekyll and Hyde at the Platform Theatre
Spotlights glare down at the audience as Jonathan Holloway’s ghastly adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Victorian nightmare commences. The audience squirms and grimaces until the violent lights let off and a smouldering, shadowy light replaces it, illuminating a sort of warped opium den-cum-lavish study. Smoke frames the dark objects and mysterious figures, whilst a melodramatic accordion croaks in the background. There’s already a sense of inescapable doom in the air. The stage is set, now the puppets must play their part.
And how well they play it! With two members of the cast from Hong Kong and the other four from the UK, all demonstrate immensely amusing vocal capacity and powerfully precise body language, most strikingly the hero and heroine – London lawyer Mr Utterson, and the Eastern European, female Dr Jekyll. Between the cast and creatives, the literary value of these two characters is retained. Even in the very small space of one hour and 25 minutes, Utterson’s stolid, naive rationality is comfortingly familiar, and the battle between Jekyll’s alluring charm and dark genius is vividly portrayed.
Whereas this was once just an anthropological tale of good versus evil (or religion versus science), Holloway has expanded it into issues of gender, power, sexuality and individual freedom. Utterson’s surprise at discovering the doctor is a woman (the pair are meeting for the first time in this version) merely scratches the surface of the injustice Jekyll has suffered at the hands of men. Allusions to her mysterious yet clearly violent past, and her manipulative, unromantic sexuality, hint at deeper thoughts, yet it is her medical work that reveals the intensity of her scarring. Whether Holloway is trying to make an explicit political or social statement, or merely revamping an old tale, is unclear. Nonetheless, the storyline is interesting and well-executed.
With Jekyll a prominent presence in the play, Holloway has taken out much of the mystery of the original and instead shown the audience the terrible madness of the doctor. Combined with the hybrid setting, which hovers somewhere between Victorian London and smoky Chinese dens, this gothic melodrama is thrilling, eerie and highly intriguing.
Jekyll and Hyde is on at the Platform Theatre from 28th July until 8th August 2015, for further information or to book visit here.