Visiting our local theatre is always a treat, but yesterday I had the great fortune of watching a play that I’d previously studied in school, recreated before my very eyes.
The recreation features the fiendish doubling of the self – watching such a thing presents the sense of the uncanny and the questioning of our very own psyche. The play follows the path of a doctor who has studied and further identified himself as having two selves (the selves representing the angel and devil) and his fear that crimes are being committed by his devilish other-self.
Storyhouse takes this gothic plot and brings it to life for the community of Chester – complimented by Fallen Angels, an organisation who uses contemporary dance to promote recovery from addiction. ‘Risen angels’ who have previously struggled with addiction, have changed hundreds of lives in Chester, transforming their pain into movement.
Jekyll and Hyde kicks off in much of the same way as the original – really excelling in the storytelling. The use of letters and monologue capture the internal struggle the doctor has over the realisation of his other-self. He fights his friends fear for his sanity, as he attempts to prove the doublings existence.
The show features some truly comical moments from actress Rosa Hesmondhalgh. She plays Rose; the inquisitive and pushy niece visiting her aunt in London to escape the boredom of her home. This is paired beautifully against the inner turmoil of the man she wishes to study – Dr Jekyll, played by Edward Harrison.
The play presents a time of naivety towards the now acknowledged condition of split personality and also captures (by the use of two actors to present one mind) the alter ego and darkness that is argued to be in all of us. It demonstrated how a whole other person, Matthew Flynn playing Mr Hyde, actually could be within everyone. The internal monologue of the struggle between the selves was enchanting -‘No one created me.’
Natasha Bain, playing Lady Gabriel, presents the raw passion of her own struggle for her sense of self. As a younger woman she’d supported her friend through his doubling journey, but with age has come to see his investigation as his illness. She conveys her fear and horror at her own involvement in his developing obsession very well, throughout the show.
The choreography of this play must be celebrated; the moment when Dr Jekyll finally accepts the presents of Mr Hyde is especially breathtaking. The smooth flowing, almost fight scene, represents the joining of the selves and finally, the acceptance of them coming together in death. I couldn’t take my eyes off the scene as the two battled control for the conscious mind – the audience was enthralled.
And finally, the set itself. Basic brick wall and copper bars surrounding the stage is all that’s needed to set this iconic play. The clever use of grates in the floor presenting light, fire and smoke, allows for an eerie and chilling feel. Traditional lamps hung from the iron create a truly gothic atmosphere and provide the opportunity for the actors to move around the stage in an unsettling way.
You can catch this delightful take on a classic from Glyn Maxwell at Storyhouse from until 19th October. Tickets are from £18 and can be purchased here.
Photos courtesy of Mark McNulty for Storyhouse