Jekyll & Hyde

Jan 17 2024 | By More

★★★★☆    Atmospheric

Royal Lyceum Theatre: Sat 13 – Sat 27 Jan 2024
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Lyceum’s presentation of the Reading Rep Theatre production of Jekyll & Hyde features an ingenious adaptation by Gary McNair and a powerful performance by Forbes Masson.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, about the conflict between good and evil within one person, is supposedly set in London. However, anyone familiar with the story’s various inspirations, not to mention the closes and wynds of Stevenson’s youth, has always imagined it taking place in Edinburgh.

Forbes Masson in Jekyll & Hyde. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

So it is fitting that the 2022 Reading Rep production is at the Lyceum before touring Scotland. Recent adaptations have tended to introduce female characters to give the story a different dimension (and indeed, at Reading this version was performed by Audrey Brisson), but Gary McNair’s one-person adaptation is remarkably faithful to the original.

This means that much of the story is told from the perspective of the lawyer Utterson; there is surprisingly little Jekyll, and even less Hyde, in this version. There are two obvious problems in keeping so close to the novella – the story relies on a twist that everyone watching already knows is coming, and the whole structure is more literary than dramatic.

McNair deals with both of these problems with considerable elegance. However, the tale is now framed by a beginning and ending which – while structurally very pleasing – tend to fudge things a little as well as making overly explicit what is already clear in the story.

intensity, drive and nuance

That opening – reminiscent of an old-fashioned ‘front of cloth’ comedian – does set the scene for an excellent example of the storyteller’s art. Masson’s performance is full of intensity, drive and nuance, differentiating the various characters he performs with commendable skill. Michael Fentiman’s direction is wonderfully elastic and beautifully paced.

Forbes Masson in Jekyll & Hyde. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

There is real visual and aural impact, too; Max Jones’s set frames the front of the stage, the platform that forms the main acting area and the ‘grotesque door’ behind which Hyde disappears, with fluorescent tubes. The other lights that provide Richard Howell’s stark lighting are also visible on stage; this lighting, like Richard Hammarton’s sound and music, is often used sparingly in a production that makes notable use of darkness and silence. When the dramatic moments come, they are all the more impressive.

remarkably modern

This is not, however, a version of the story that is dominated by its spookiness or supernatural aspects. Instead, it focuses on the psychology, ending up – thanks to some well-judged comedic touches – remarkably modern. This plays to one of Masson’s greatest strengths; some of the characterisations approach caricature, but they are always thoroughly recognisable in all their messy humanity.

The 75-minute straight-through duration that is becoming increasingly popular can often seem a decidedly awkward length; here, it is just right for maximum impact in a production that does justice to its celebrated source.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay St, EH9 3AX
Saturday 13 – Saturday 27 January 2024
Tues – Sat at 7.30 pm; Matinees Wed & Sat at 2.30 pm
Details and tickets at: Book here.

Jekyll and Hyde on tour

Perth Theatre
Mill Street, Perth, PH1 5HZ
Wed 31 Jan – Sat 3 Feb
Evenings: 7.30pm; Mats Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Dundee Rep
Tay Square, Dundee DD1 1PB
Wed 7 Feb – Sat 10 February
Evenings: 7.30pm; Mats Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Macrobert Arts Centre
University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA
Thur 15 Feb – Sat 17 Feb
Thurs: 6pm; Fri/Sat: 7.30pm; Sat Mat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Forbes Masson in Jekyll & Hyde. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic


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