"Another Fabulous Atmospheric Gothic Horror"
by Cheryl Rowlands for remotegoat on 16/11/19

Yet another great production from Red Rope Theatre Company in the wonderfully atmospheric setting of Arnos Vale Cemetray, and I have come to expect nothing less.

First published in 1886, and initially sold as a paperback costing one shilling in the UK and a penny in America (hence the terms “shilling shockers” or the more commonly known “penny dreadful”), Jekyll & Hyde is a gothic novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson about a London legal practitioner named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde. The impact of the original story was so strong that the phrase to be like “Jekyll and Hyde" is used to reference people who exhibit an unpredictable change of personality.

Although the story is based around the changing character of Dr Jekyll into Hyde and his (losing) battle with the stronger personality of Hyde who eventually takes him over entirely, the main protagonist in the story is actually Gabriel Utterson. He becomes increasingly disturbed because his good friend Henry Jekyll changes his will to make Hyde the sole beneficiary. When Utterson tries to discuss Hyde with Jekyll, Jekyll demands that Hyde be left alone.

As the story progresses, Jekyll realises that he is losing autonomy and gradually transforming permanently into Hyde and so he writes his "confession", ending the letter by writing, "I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end." With these words, both the document and the novella come to a close.

Jekyll and Hyde were played brilliantly by Brad Morrison. His use of the mirror on the wall was brilliant, and as he battled with the stronger personality of Hyde as he was gradually consumed by him, you could literally see him transforming before your eyes.

Utterson and Carew were played by Dan Gaisford and he played both convincingly, although I preferred his characterisation of Carew more than Utterson.

Jekyll’s long-serving Manservant, Poole, and Annie, a prostitute who is murdered by Hyde, were played by Producer Lois Grinter. She played Annie to great effect, however her portrayal of Poole did not quite work for me as she was too young and unassuming and showed little of the fierce old manservant as described by Utterson to be one who would “put fear into any delivery driver” (not a direct quote). To me, she played the part more like mild-mannered Jeeves from “Jeeves & Wooster”, rather than a force to be reckoned with. However, with a cast of only three and six characters to play, the role naturally fell to her.

The fight scene (directed by Danaan McAleer) and the murder of Carew was truly brutal with Hyde becoming ever more violent and unpredictable.

This production was adapted by Matt Grinter and directed by Rebecca Robson with stage and costume design by Molly Hawkins. Sound and lighting by Oliver Thomas and Mark Riden respectively with poster design by Rhys Williams.

All in all another very enjoyable production by Red Rope and I look forward to future productions.

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