Rpbert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has undergone many transformations on stage and screen over the years. A natural circumstance, one would assume, seeing that Stevenson’s original novella, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published 132 years ago. In that time, adaptations of the story have become somewhat caricatured, its therefore refreshing that Newport Playgoers presentation of David Edgar’s stage adaptation captures the essence, feel and spirit of the original.
Returning to his family home to uncover his late father’s scientific journals, Dr Edward Henry Jekyll discovers the means to unlock a second personality within himself. Stronger, confident and seemingly powerful, Mr Hyde gives Jekyll the potential to fulfil his fantasies. However, such potential comes with a price and Jekyll subsequently unravels a side to Mr Hyde that he struggles to comprehend.
Director Lynn Phillips has certainly done her research when bringing the gothic fantasy of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to the Dolman Theatre stage. The set recalls the high-ceiling rooms of the Victorian era transforming the audience from Catherine Urquhart’s exquisite parlour to Dr Jekyll’s well-used living room and the clinical atmosphere of his dissection room (complete with street lamp visible through the window)
Strong soundscapes bring echoes of Victorian London via whistle-blowing Policeman, steam trains and the London docklands successfully into the mind’s eye, while the casts Victorian era costumes add further authenticity to the production.
Switching between the mild mannered and seemingly caring Dr Jekyll and the reckless and lustful Mr Hyde, Jes Hynes brings the dual lead role to life on stage. Hines successfully paces Jekyll and Hyde’s personalities to a degree that they ultimately shift and bleed into each other before reaching boiling point, making real edge of the seat drama.
Liz Keech turns out a mesmerising portrayal of Dr Jekyll’s chambermaid, Annie, who becomes the lustful object of Mr Hyde’s desires. As the plot unfolds, Annie could so easily be the victim of the drama, however Miss Keech’s portrayal breathes bravery into her character and ultimately becomes the story’s unwitting heroine.
Cat Rose brings strength and believability to the role of Dr Jekyll’s widowed sister, Catherine Urqhart. Miss Rose performance wins on every level, from doting mother of stage-struck children (played to the right tone by Mia Norman and Niall Hayes) to caring but sometimes vulnerable sister to her personality-shifting brother.
I also enjoyed the performances of Matthew Hitchman as Gabriel Utterson, Stephen Hopkins as Doctor Lanyon, Keith Poulteney as Poole The Butler and Stuart Fouweather as Richard Enfield. All actors, including the rest of the ensemble cast made their parts count on stage as the story unfolded, enabling the production to be immersive and similarly enthralling.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a true must-see for any fan of classic gothic-fantasy. It runs at Newport’s Dolman Theatre until October 20th – don’t miss it!