Jekyll and Hyde
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford/Touring
THE GOTHIC elements of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde make it easy to parody. But that would do a disservice to Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, which raises questions about human nature that still have contemporary resonance.
David Edgar’s adaptation, first staged in 1991, largely ignores those possibilities and that's reflected in a Kate Saxon production lacking subtlety, imagination or clear direction. Labouring over the psychological aspect of the narrative, a reference to dualism is crow-barred into every scene, while a back story about Dr Jekyll’s relationship with his father provides a half-formed Freudian rationale for his scientific endeavours.
The introduction of female characters would perhaps be noteworthy if they were depicted as anything other than victims. But the men are portrayed equally one-dimensionally, with Sam Cox as Poole, the butler, a restrained Basil Fawlty and Ben Jones as Dr Lanyon, a longtime friend, the epitome of the Victorian stiff upper lip. He's remarkably unperturbed when he witnesses Jekyll's transformation.
That equanimity is perhaps understandable. Phil Daniels is a mild-mannered Jekyll and a drunken thug with an outrageously exaggerated Glaswegian accent as Hyde.
The lack of physical transformation makes it hard to believe that only the maid Annie (Grace Hogg-Robinson) is perceptive enough to make a connection between the two men. The moments when Daniels plays the character for laughs in the second act are misjudged and suggest that even he doesn’t believe in the role.
Simon Higlett’s split-level set design is functional but, like much about this production, its Victorian cliches lack creative flair. It speaks volumes that the illuminated red door leading to Jekyll’s laboratory is the only thing that glows in this Touring Consortium Theatre Company production.
Tours until May 19, details: touringconsortium.co.uk
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