Review: Jekyll and Hyde at the Harlow Playhouse

Lifestyle / Sun 15th Mar 2015 at 04:04pm

Review: By Catherine Johnson

Jekyll and Hyde, the play, is described by Sell a Door theatre company as a reinterpreted modern adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s cult classic novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The adaption is written by Jo Clifford, formerly John Clifford, who is a performer, teacher and well-respected playwright of around 80 plays.

Traditionally Jekyll and Hyde tells the story of one man split in two – respectable Dr. Jekyll transformed into the inexplicably cruel Mr. Hyde. This modern adaption is no different.

Dr. Jekyll is a high-profile cancer specialist close to a major breakthrough, with primal urges that he tries to fight. During his research, Jekyll creates an unintentional strain of a drug that has the capability to alter his personality and appearance, turning him into the abhorrent Mr. Hyde as he experiments on himself.

The play uses only three actors and an overused revolving stage that they turn themselves. The stage is dimly lit and eerily misty from the moment we take our seats.

Perhaps the most shocking element of the play is the vivid descriptions from Mr. Hyde, who loves to “hear the crunching of bones” as he stamps on his victims – men, women and children.

Nathan Ives-Moiba is an actor-come-contortionist, transforming himself from Jekyll to Hyde rather brilliantly by using his well-sculpted body as the most powerful prop – hunching, twisting and manipulating his way through some gruelling acts as Hyde. So much so that the steampunk accessories were out of place and unnecessary, much like the constant undressing and re-dressing.

Understated and smooth actor Lyle Barke, plays London lawyer and Jekyll’s long-suffering friend, Utterson. Though I found his relationship with Jekyll was annoyingly ambiguous.
Rowena Lennon is convincing and brilliant as Dr. Lanyon and Jekyll’s servant, though somewhat stretched in a multitude of other roles. As a servant she plays a victim of abuse, which Jekyll loves as it “keeps their esteem low”.

Jekyll’s desires are ultimately always the same as Hyde’s. The only thing that Jekyll wants is to distinguish between the two and split his conscience so that he can revel in evil without guilt. Much like Freud’s description of the human psyche – can the ego keep both the id and the superego in a state of equilibrium?

I won’t spoil the ending, but I think it’s safe to say that question is answered.

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