This new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Victorian Gothic, The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde, has been reset one year henceforth, a Utopian future where Trump has been impeached for corruption. Opening in the week when Boris Johnson has done more harm to the Conservative-DUP Alliance than all the other parties put together, was a timely piece of luck. Alas, for me, it was all a strange case of WTF! A convoluted concoction to confuse and confound, writes Michael Holland.
Basically, in the wake of yet another mass shooting, Mayor Henry Jekyll, a young liberal, announces his candidacy to run for the U.S. presidency with Mister Edward Hyde as his running mate, and a promise to get guns off the streets. But is he too good to be true? What is he hiding…? So far so good.
After that I kind of got lost in the maelstrom of issues that kept getting dropped into the mix: LBGTQ, paedophilia, abortion, drugs, Black Lives Matter and Green issues. Add to that a small cast playing everyone involved, with barely a change of costume, plus, continually going back and forth in time, is it any wonder I lost the plot? I’ll have a drop of what you’re having, Henry… When the interval came I was so baffled I thought it was the end.
I was jarred, too, by how the contemporary story was told and delivered melodramatically. The mock-Gothic had a comedic value which, I felt, didn’t fit as this was not supposed to be a comedy. Perhaps writer-director Ross McGregor should have gone the whole way and aimed it at a 21st century audience laughing at the overacting Victorians. That, I could have come to like.
I love the thirteen-time Off West End Award-Nominated Arrows & Traps Theatre and always enjoy seeing the regulars in the troupe bring their skills to the stage, but not this time. I felt that by trying to say too much merely made this Jekyll & Hyde unnecessarily more complicated. On the plus side, Arrows & Traps continually draw great performances from its cast, and the diaphanous screen that became a TV set, amongst other things, was brilliant for Jekyll’s transition from good to evil and became the highlight for me.
I’m sure there’s an analogy to be drawn from this adaptation and the current evil pairing of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, which I began thinking was the point, but then realised nothing could turn the reality of current politics into jokey melodrama.
The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde is on at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH until 28th September. Times: Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm. Admission: £16, £13 conc. Phone: 0333 666 3366