Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, Brockley Jack Theatre

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Arrows and Traps’ residency at the Brockley Jack is a guarantee of quality. This new adaptation, from director and writer Ross McGregor, of the classic novel sets the scene in 21st century America; amongst school shootings, right wing rhetoric, sexuality and the science that makes Jekyll and Hyde seem a possibility rather than a fantasy.

Lucy Ioannou stars journalist Gabrielle Utterson, who has taken on the case of a child prostitute beaten by a mysterious man. Who was he and why did he have access to so much money to ensure the police weren’t involved. Add in a complicated relationship with, Imogen (Gabrielle Nellis-Pain) a prostitute at the Cathouse who witnessed it all, as well as Gabrielle’s own demons including a temper, a drink problem and a father who have fallen from grace as a senator to a sex offender.

Will Pinchin as Dr Henry Jekyll is mayor of a Indiana town. I was naturally expecting yet another Trump portrayal but Pinchin’s performance takes an interesting turn, as Democrat in the mold of a Kennedy or upcoming Democratic presidential candidates like Beto O’Rourke. A nice guy who uses his privilege for good but with something darker under the surface. It is a real stand out performance from Pinchin.

The something darker is Mr Hyde, played with lightness and dark by Christopher Tester. Edward Hyde is a gay schoolteacher who falls for Jekyll but they have to hide their relationship due to Jekyll’s political aspirations. The relationships between Gabrielle and Imogen and Jekyll and Hyde compliment and contrast each other, both conducted in darkness whilst one is under the guise of the business relationship that hides the love and affection and the other has affection that must be hidden for professional reasons. McGregor has pulled from the original work Victoria attitudes to sexuality; the concept of separate private and public lives.

The leading cast put in great performances; Christopher Tester’s small but important role of Hyde plays on his strengths (his performance in Dracula remains one of my favourite performances. Ionnanou is great as the journalist battling her own demons and I really enjoyed the husky voiced Nellis-Pain as the prostitute reconciling her loneliness with her work as a prostitute.

Charlotte Cooke’s set design incorporates the modern world, with Andy Ioannou and Daniel Frampton reflecting the world of communication in their video design with Skype calls and an interesting character design for Charlie Ryall’s Hannah who goes from a bright and healthy doctor to a woman with a mysterious illness.

As ever Mcgregor has put a fresh twist on a classic. Everyone knows the story of Jekyll and Hyde and he has created a new story that includes elements of the original but social commentary on gun laws, sexuality and responding quickly to current news events. As Britain looks inward at its own political dramas it is easy to forget how rich Trump’s America is for inspiring new and rich work.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde is on umntil 28 September https://brockleyjack.co.uk/jackstudio-entry/the-strange-case-of-jekyll-hyde/

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