Blackeyed Theatre are on tour with their sell-out production of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Following being filmed and streamed in 2020, this thrilling adaptation by Nick Lane of Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy is at the New Theatre, Cardiff, immersing audiences in the myth and mystery of 19th century London.
The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde became an instant Gothic classic when published in 1886 by the Scottish author. Having read the book and then later studied it at University, it is a story that I and others will know well.
Set in London, the good Doctor, Henry Jekyll, a successful physician within his field and respected by his peers aims to change the face of medical science forever when he gets close to a neurological discovery. His methods to achieve that are questionable, and a colleague threatens to expose his controversial methods leaving Jekyll no option but to experiment on himself.
When his experiment goes wrong, Jekyll suddenly has a new friend, the brutal Edward Hyde.
The story is brought to life with the use of ensemble storytelling, those actors not speaking providing a key accompaniment to enhance the performance. It was great to see the duality of human nature fully represented on the stage with it being a key theme in the book. The splitting of personalities, knowing that we all have a good side and bad side are represented well. You don’t just witness the physical change of the actor becoming Hyde, you can also see the transformation in stage presence and hear the relationship dynamics change between the individuals.
The performance by Zach Lee, playing Gabriel Utterson, a close friend and advisor of the doctor is one that especially stands out. In addition to this, Zach also takes up the role of narrator, which sees him flip roles mid scene, which is impressive to say the least.
In productions such as this one, it’s not uncommon that actors will take on multiple characters throughout. This often presents a challenge, with the dualism coming down to the actor’s ability, along with a few props and costume changes, to convince audiences of their individual parts. Zach does a truly excellent job of this, but so does Paige Round who takes on many roles, and of course so does Blake Kubena.
Ending the first half with a nightmarish physical theatre scene, you are left stunned by Hyde’s brutality and the absence of script in the scene truly emphasises the masterful storytelling through movement, alongside a musical score by Tristan Parkes. Will the doctor succeed in his endeavours of the mind? You will have find that out for yourself…
Be prepared to immerse yourself in this spectacular rendition of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. For those of you who are studying this play, I’d strongly recommend visiting so that you can too can experience and examine the complex nature of theatre – something I wished I had the opportunity to do.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is now showing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 13 November 2021. Tickets from £13 with discounts for school groups. Find out more and book here.