Jekyll and Hyde

Theatre, Fringe
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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The intriguing twist in this new version of the Gothic novel never quite pays off.

There’s a fabulously juicy new twist in Jonathan Holloway’s version of this old gothic horror. Here, the good Dr Jekyll is actually a woman and her nasty alter ego Mr Hyde is the man she is trying to become.

But though there’s the tantalising promise of a new perspective on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, in ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, the great ideas are fairly underdeveloped. Jekyll is the only female doctor in Britain, having arrived in London from a volatile, unstable country in eastern Europe where she was sexually abused. Presumably this has prompted her self-inflicted experiments, so that, as a man, she is more able to protect herself. I say ‘presumably’ because her motives are never fully explained. Her past experiences and her obsession with changing gender also feel at odds with the fact that she has a voracious sexual appetite, and embarks on a tempestuous love affair with a host of men – the ‘friends’ from Stevenson’s original become lovers here.    

But though the script struggles in places, the show – also directed by Holloway – looks beautiful. Huge Chinese lanterns hang from the ceiling, the stage is all shadows and smoke and evokes the dark, dingy backstreets of Victorian London very well. The piece is a co-production with Hong Kong company Chung Ying and though the Chinese flourishes don’t add much to the plot, everything has an exotic, otherworldly tinge of a nineteenth century opium den that suits this mysterious yarn marvellously.

The cast is uneven, but there’s an excellent turn from Olivia Winteringham who plays an ethereal Jekyll and a horribly brutish Hyde. Her transformation is stark and shocking and it’s played brilliantly. It’s just a pity we aren’t made to understand her plight more. ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ holds within it the secret ingredients to a great show, but it never manages a perfect transformation.

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