Digital Theatre review: Jekyll and Hyde (Old Vic)
Ivan Radford | On 06, Aug 2020
Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of the most well-known tales in literature, a gothic story of humankind’s duality that’s become both iconic and influential. So insightful is its simple concept that most people wouldn’t need words to understand it – and so it’s a natural choice, in many ways, for this modern dance adaptation by choreographer Drew McOnie.
The production, which was performed at the Old Vic, nonetheless makes some changes to bring its own flavour to the concoction – and it’s a flavour that is always visually arresting. Dr Jekyll (Daniel Collins) is a florist in the 50s who has a thing for customer Dahlia (Rachel Muldoon). Quicker than you can say “Little Shop of Horrors”, he tries a serum on himself to save his shop and winds up transforming into Mr Hyde (Tim Hodges).
Casting two performers as the opposite parts of the timid doctor’s personality is a surefire way to emphasise the contrast between the identities, and Hodges’ Hyde moves with distinctive, daring confidence – right from his gob-smacking introductory scene in a shower. He’s charismatic and alluring to everyone else on stage, an affect echoed by his enticing serum.
Collins, meanwhile, finds similarities with Hodges’ presence but also brings an earnest sincerity to his well-meaning botanist, and his duets with Muldoon’s love interest flow with chemistry.
All of this is served up with a nice dose of glamour and dark humour – the day-glo colourful costumes sweep from rock and roll energy to sinister serial killing with a sashaying wit, part Grease and part Rocky Horror. The music is just as much a star as the dancing and Soutra Gilmour’s shifting set design, fusing big band jazz with rock band grit, as we’re whisked from nightclubs to punch-ups – and, in one whiplash moment, unnerving silence.
If the result sounds a bit chaotic, it is, and the tone leaps wildly from romance to knowing sleaziness without the dramatic heft you’d expect from one man’s inner existential wrangling. And yet, you never lose track of who’s who or what’s going on as the production propels you through its smartly paced thrills. That’s partly because the show trades in easy cliches and visual signifiers of right and wrong, but that unabashed streamlining and superficial style is also what leads to a climactic strobe-lit showdown between Jekyll and Hyde, which plays out with a lightning bolt ingenuity. This adventurous reimagining of a familiar tale is never less than entertaining.
Jekyll & Hyde is available for free on YouTube until 12th August 2020.