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Jekyll and Hyde review at Ambassadors Theatre, London – ‘sharp and stylish’

Elizabeth McCafferty, Amarah Jae St.-Aubyn, Rebbeca Smith, Leah Gaffey In Jekyll and Hyde at Ambassadors Theatre. Photo: Nobby Clark Elizabeth McCafferty, Amarah Jae St.-Aubyn, Rebbeca Smith, Leah Gaffey In Jekyll and Hyde at Ambassadors Theatre. Photo: Nobby Clark
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Ambitious, angry, and intriguing, Evan Placey’s radical adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde for National Youth Theatre transforms the familiar story into a discussion of powerfully resonant contemporary issues. Grappling with entrenched sexism, radicalisation, and online trolling, his reimagining is a huge departure from Stevenson’s macabre parable.

After a brash, bemusing first half peppered with intentional anachronisms and jarring cut-aways, the play’s two parallel plotlines become distinct. The first follows Harriet Jekyll, wife of the deceased Doctor Henry. Elizabeth McCafferty plays her with marvellous charisma, capturing the sense of a fizzing intellect stifled by Victorian constraints. The second plot shifts the action to a modern day police station, where teenage fanfic writer Florence – a believably perceptive and self-righteous Jenny Walser – explains her connection to a string of violent protests.

Director Roy Alexander Weise does a fine job of pulling the disparate threads together, using the large ensemble to create vivid tableaux and energetic movement sequences. Coupled with some lavish, adaptable costumes by Loren Elstein and Jen Gregory, the result is an impressively realised world, a city seen in two time periods, populated by activists and hypocrites, sex workers and Suffragettes. A tense, textured score by Odinn Orn Hilmarsson plays up the show’s themes of duality, alternating between bombastic gothic strings and scuzzy electronic ambience.

At times, the show’s continual tonal shifts do become frustrating. Humour, horror, and sexual violence are laid on thick, colliding with unsettling frequency. Nevertheless, this is precisely the sort of bold, relevant production the National Youth Theatre should be staging.

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Stylish, sharp, and often discomfiting deconstruction of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic