Having previously presented adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula, writer and director Ross McGregor turns his attention to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The action is relocated from Victorian Edinburgh to a near-future America where Donald Trump has been impeached. Rising young star Henry Jekyll – a Democrat mayor in Indiana – is on a mission to make the presidency a moral office again. But he has a double life that would compromise his standing in the heart of Trumpland; he’s in a relationship with history teacher Edward Hyde.
McGregor’s adaptation is overwrought, overly verbose and features lots of choppy flashbacks. The plot raises questions it never properly answers – why would a public figure trying to hide his sexuality be using dating apps? – and the performances are a bit overcooked. Lucy Ioannou’s hard-drinking journalist Gabrielle Utterson feels too much like a pastiche of a 1940s private eye and Will Pinchin doesn’t quite convince as a privileged golden boy morphing into a monster. Christopher Tester conveys seedy menace without going over the top as Hyde, but the American accents are patchy across the board.
Charlotte Cooke’s flexible set is made up of run-down walls and screens, with sickly green lighting used to convey the unregulated scientific experiments gone wrong.
While no amount of sleaze and violence is too far-fetched for Trump’s America, the supernatural elements feel surplus to requirements: there’s a lot more horror in the way in which mass shootings have become part of everyday life and ‘thoughts and prayers’ a useless panacea.