"Carl Jung Meets his Match"
by Chris Bearne for remotegoat on 06/03/09

Flyers are a problem. They're all but essential for small theatres, but they're also a hostage to fortune, committing producers to a "pitch", sometimes even before they really know what they're pitching. Last night I saw and was largely held by an interesting play, one of those "what if" scenarios, a duel between two very particular but unlikely interlocutors, Carl Jung and Edward Hyde. What I didn't get - and was never likely to get - was the flyer-promised "dark gothic play telling the fascinating, hilarious yet terrifying story …" etc. It was not that ; it was an absorbing, well-performed play and worth the trip out to Woodford. End of.

I think there is every chance that this piece will have further airings - it deserves them - and I will not spoil the plot. Suffice it to say that we are offered a bare stage, minimal set, purporting to be Broadmoor Hospital. In a cell, Jung is engaging with Stevenson's monster, in whom, we presently find, the vestiges of Jekyll still reside, but only just. What will happen as the interviews proceed? There's enough there to hold any audience. No need to promise dark, gothic things. They weren't there, neither was hilarity, beyond the odd moment of relief, nor was terror unleashed. What we did have was a stark clash of personalities and insights into the banality of evil and its allure. Such an encounter also demands - hence perhaps the inspiration to playwright Mark Ryan - some high-octane word-drive from Jung and matching astuteness in Hyde, who - and here is where we came nearest to gothic - will disappoint if we don't get to see the monster beneath …

As Jung, Eddie McNamee had the gravitas, the intellectual arrogance (and the struggle to contain it, given the company he's in) and the way of conveying the great man's fallibility. Given that this is a 50-minute high-tension chamber piece, I regretted what looked to me like a directing faux pas : speed of delivery. This is a great part for thinking-on-your-feet acting, but that too demands for modulation of pace, opportunities for which were, to the occasional detriment of our involvement : lots of words in this play ; a pity to short-change the writing. It looked like the direction needed a looser rein or perhaps the writing a tighter one.

As Hyde/Jekyll, Ashley Gunstock was on bravura form, as indeed he needed to be. Apart from a touch of Samuel Barber's Adagio in the opening music, there are no crutches in this play, only the physical resources of the performers. From unsettlingly contained to jaw-droppingly amoral in the expositional stages, he was well able to present the desperate Jekyll striving to escape the hell of Hyde's being and all the horrors of the man possessed by demons, whose name was Legion …But this was not grand guignol, nor needed it to be. Well done, Poetic Justice Productions, but please label the tin better next time.

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