Though Robert Louis Stevenson’s slight but thematically rich story of the unleashing of the dark soul has been dramatised in numerous different forms since it was first published more than 130 years ago, it seems there is still room for a fresh interpretation.
Writer Glyn Maxwell has taken what is often presented as a black-and-white tale of good versus evil and created something a good deal more opaque.
In Maxwell’s world, Jekyll (Edward Harrison) is a man in the grip of an addiction – and his actions are seen through the prism of that addiction. Although as a theme it’s treated with a light touch, director Psyche Stott is working in tandem with choreographer Paul Bayes Kitcher from addiction recovery dance company Fallen Angels. Harrison imbues his Jekyll with a bright feverishness that radiates from his skin and eyes.
In turn, Matthew Flynn’s hulking Hyde is just that: a Hulk, or perhaps a Frankenstein’s monster – a brutal but pitiable naif who may not understand concepts of civility but instinctively yearns to leave his dark world behind.
This version of Jekyll and Hyde actually has two sets of alter egos, with Maxwell giving dual (female) voice to the story’s traditional narrator, through Natasha Bain’s older and more fearful lady scientist and Rosa Hesmondhalgh as her curious young niece who, like Hyde, determines to seize her moment in the light.
The themes of light and darkness are mirrored in Neill Brinkworth’s lighting design, and designer Katie Lias’ spare staging which mixes sooty Victorian brickwork with flashes of illumination.