Jekyll & Hyde
(reviewed at the Rhodes Arts Complex, Bishop’s Stortford on 5 March)
Robert Louis Stevenson published his novella in 1886, and it’s proved to be a fertile ground on which a plethora of plays and films have been nurtured. Jo Clifford is the latest in a long list of dramatisers to tackle its theme of two personalities in one body and the resultant havoc this can wreak with a setting in the London of 2022.
Sell A Door Theatre Company’s artistic director David Hutchinson and his designer Richard Evans present us with a metallic platformed cube, which revolves as the action unfolds. Nathan Ives-Moiba is Dr Jekyll, esteemed medical researcher and celebrity; he gives an incredibly physical performance as the self-inflated ego of Jekyll twists itself into the destructive sadist who is Hyde.
Lawyer Utterson is the friend who tries to help, though Lyle Barne makes it clear that Utterson’s concern is rooted in a thwarted physical passion for Jekyll. The third member of the cast is Rowena Lennon as the wheelchair-bound Dr Lanyon, whose contribution to research has been deftly swept under the proverbial carpet by Jekyll, assorted servants, assistants and victims. Her introduction says it all: a woman has no name, no status, is invisible.
Parallels with modern celebrity culture and cults are obvious, but not excessively obtrusive. “Doing good is so very dull” sighs Jekyll at one point; one wonders if that could indeed be at the root of so many of the instances of wrong-doing by do-gooders which are currently making the headlines.
This is not one of the comfortable, pleasurable squeal and shiver version of the story. It is a valid, highly dramatic interpretation which is very well staged and acted.
Jekyll & Hyde can be seen at the Harlow Playhouse on 12 March, the Mumford Theatre, Cambridge on 23 and 24 March, and at the Grove Theatre, Dunstable on 26 March.