Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Apr 11 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆   Puzzling

King’s Theatre: Tue 10 – Sat 14 April 2018
Review by Martin Gray.

The seminal story of a 19th century physician who uses a potion to unlock the darkness within gets a puzzling treatment as the Touring Consortium Theatre Company’s production reaches the King’s.

While it isn’t set in the capital, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has the blood of Edinburgh running through its veins, being written by a son of the city, Robert Louis Stevenson, and purportedly inspired by the dark doings of Deacon Brodie.

Phil Daniels. Pic: Mark Douet

So kudos to actor Phil Daniels for having the guts to have a crack at a refined Auld Reekie accent when he brought his Henry Jekyll to the King’s. I can only imagine how our friends in the west will react to his dark alter ego, Edward Hyde, getting a Glasgow twang.

I was imagining all sorts of things while watching this take on the tale, mostly about being somewhere else. For this isn’t so much an adaptation of RLS as a rewrite by David Edgar. Edgar’s credentials are impeccable – Nicholas Nickleby for the RSC, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane, to name but two – but here his ego gets in the way.

The story is restructured around two original characters, Jekyll’s sister Katherine, and his maid, Annie, because Edgar thought the original all-male story needed a female perspective. So we have the widowed Katherine, strong, intelligent and independent, there to disturb Jekyll’s stuffy world of men; and Annie, one of life’s victims, who finally proves, for no discernible reason, the only person who recognises that Henry Jekyll is Edward Hyde.

an interesting challenge

Which is deeply weird as, bar a bit of Danny DeVito Penguin cosplay and a wobbly gait, Phil Daniels looks exactly the same as the two characters. Yes, it’s an interesting challenge for an actor to not play Hyde as a massive brute, but we do need real points of distinction. On this showing, Hyde is simply a tipsy Jekyll trying to do Billy Connolly.

Phil Daniels, Rosie Abraham, Polly Frame and Anyebe Godwin. Pic Mark Douet

Well, except when things get violent, which is when Richard Hammarton’s sound design goes right over the top, with comically loud crunching of bones.

There is a third female in the cast, but she’s not a character – she’s an ethereal singer who punctuates scenes with such lyrics as “Don’t tickle Teddy in the forest” – a Victorian euphemism, perhaps.

Director Kate Saxon tells us in the programme notes that the singer is “…outside of the story and yet gifted with true sight in the sixth sense’. Given that some of her interjections amount to no more than ‘Da da da, dum da da’ I’m not convinced – there’s are reasons RLS’s story has resonated down the decades, why not hone in on those rather than add women with ‘foresight and emotional intelligence’? Because, you know, men are just dense.

Which isn’t to say the actresses aren’t good – Polly Frame’s patch-eyed Katherine, full or warmth and wit, is heaps of fun, far better company than doddery old Henry. Grace Hogg-Robinson’s Annie is an energetic presence, though no one could sell the character’s insane decision to return to Jekyll’s house towards the end of the play. And Rosie Abraham has a sweet voice.

a good thing

Abraham, who is white, also plays Katherine’s daughter Lucy. Anyebe Godwin, who is black, plays her equally young brother, Charles. Colour-blind casting is generally a good thing, but a play set in Victorian times really needs a line to cover the distracting lack of family resemblance. And then explain why he’s about 25.

Phil Daniels and Polly Frame. Pic Mark Douet

Robin Kingsland, as Jekyll’s closest friend Gabriel Utterson, puts in a solid performance, though attempts to duplicate his role as the original novel’s entry point by having him narrate plot details with Ben Jones’s Dr Lanyon are awkward, especially when they’re finishing one. Another’s. Sentences.

The darkly lit sets are meant to evoke the subconscious, but mainly evoke difficult-to-see staging, and there’s the most self-conscious scene-shifting I’ve ever seen, with understudies bringing on tables and chairs, then standing by them for a few seconds, as if waiting for a tip, before stepping backwards.

Again, there’s likely some terribly clever psychological reason, but it’s all a tad annoying. As is some leaden business with Lucy’s top bearing good and evil faces which when spun round, merge into one – steps back in amazement…

Phil Daniels works hard to make sense of his role, but he’s hobbled by the script’s attempt at psychologist realism – he doesn’t even get to give us a Grand Guignol transformation scene. At the last, Henry Jekyll isn’t a complex man dealing with his shadow self, he’s just a saddo with daddy issues. When the end comes it’s as much a relief for the audience as for the tormented doctor.

Running time 2 hours 20 minutes (including one interval).
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 April 2018
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed and Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: http://www.capitaltheatres.com/jekyllandhyde.

Tour website: https://touringconsortium.co.uk/.
Facebook: @touringconsortium.
Twitter: @TCTcompany.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on tour:
Tues 10 – Sat 14 April 2018 Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Tues 17 – Saturday 21 April 2018 Bradford
Alhambra Theatre
01274 432000 Book online
Tues 1 – Saturday 5 May 2018 Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 429 212 Book online
Tues 8 – Sat 12 May 2018 Cambridge
Arts Theatre
01223 503 333 Book online
Tues 15 – Saturday 19 May 2018 Darlington
01325 405 405 Book online


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Comments (5)

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  1. Susan Brown says:

    As a seasoned Kings Theatre goer I enjoy good performances and found Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as enjoyable as most productions have been this year. I cannot understand the critique provided. Perhaps you should stay at home and watch Channel 4.

    The acting I found to be of an excellent standard and the stage set very cleverly done. I am sorry that the performance was undersubscribed in seat sales perhaps due to unkind and unworthy reviews.

    • Charles McGhee says:

      My wife and I are also regular Kings Theatre attendees and we both walked out at the interval. I thought the play was dire. The actors were good but the story line and management of cast was unbelievable. The main character part should have been played by two people. Phil Daniels done his best but for he was not able to carry it off. The girl at the lab door singing was surreal and I truly wish I had not seen the first act. The review by Martin Gray is accurate

  2. Catherine Mclelland says:

    I’m not sure Martin Gray has understood the concept of colour blind casting?
    He seems to want colour referenced casting – which is quite the opposite and an archaic and worrying view to take in this day and age. He can quite happily believe the fictions required of narrative but not that the actors aren’t actually related to each other!!!!
    I find this an astonishing position for a reviewer to take and deeply depressing. His views do not represent those of the audience the night I was in attendance.

  3. Barbara Howerska says:

    I was disappointed by this production of a great short story. The adaptation missed out on all sorts of important parts of the story, which reflects Victorian fears – from blackmail to monsters and science.
    It did not do justice to this impeccable short story.
    Trying to update it with our perspectives on women just confused and bored the audience.

    • Charles McGhee says:

      Totally agree with you but I am basing my feelings on only seeing the first act. I thought it was absolutely terrible.
      The actors were first class but the story line was shocking.