Jekyll & Hyde - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Wednesday, November 18, 2015 through till Saturday, November 21, 2015
Blue Orange Theatre - Birmingham
Ross Lowe | Thursday, November 19, 2015
As humans we're capable of a great deal. So much that is good, driven by love and the desire to progress. So much for the benefit of others.
Yet in a heartbeat, we're all equally as capable of inflicting pain, misery and wreaking destruction and ruin. Thankfully, most of us are of a mind to stay on the straight and narrow, but what if that mind were altered? As the mind is essentially the essence of who we are, who do we then become?
Such issues form the core of Jekyll & Hyde, Eric Gracey's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Victorian gothic horror.
Hyde's sinister figure looms ever larger in the dark back streets of London and his disastrous influence grows stronger
In the hands of Blue Orange Arts it takes on an extra twist as the action moves 50 years or so forwards into the murkier parts of London's 1930's jazz club scene. Such a leap could jar, but it pays off in spades and makes for a very gripping evening's entertainment.
The audience are welcomed into their seats by the white-tuxedoed club owner, played by Stuart Horobin. The entire piece is multi-roled so in essence there are split-personalities aplenty but in the hands of this talented cast the character changes segue smoothly and at high pace.
Although the entire set is designed to look like a smokey jazz club complete with dimly-lit tables, cocktail glasses and a thrust stage crowned with a microphone stand into which the resident chanteuses croon, the action switches seamlessly and skilfully from house to club and into the dark foggy streets of the city.
Dr Henry Jekyll (Oliver Hume) is a bright but somewhat twitchy individual who grows ever more distant as the story unfolds. His lawyer friend John Utterson (a strong portrayal by Daniel Blacker) is somewhat alarmed when Jekyll suddenly alters his will to leave all his wealth and possessions to one Edward Hyde in the event of his death or disappearance. Hyde is an unknown entity of whom Jekyll is reluctant to speak, and so Utterson is compelled to investigate. As he does so and unlocks the puzzle piece by piece, Hyde's sinister figure looms ever larger in the dark back streets of London and his disastrous influence grows stronger, leaving a trail of death in his wake.
It's a supremely atmospheric production. Oliver Hume moulds his roles excellently and his gradually deteriorating Jekyll is both believable and painful to observe while Stuart Horobin shows great range with subtle physical shifts, especially with his portrayal of Jekyll's mild-mannered and concerned butler Poole which is in contrast to his vile and manipulative nightclub owner.
The atmosphere of the era and club are enhanced with terrific musical accompaniment courtesy of on-stage pianist Kevin Webster and nightclub singers Rose (Nicola Foxfield) and Alice (Sarah Gain).
Rose is a blonde bombshell in red and Jekyll falls for her charms as he witnesses her in performance while sat in the club on a night out with Utterson, but ultimately she is a doomed figure as Hyde's appearances grow in frequency. Foxfield and Gain flawlessly deliver a number of classics from Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George & Ira Gershwin - at times breathy and seductive and at other times brash and brassy and these songs lend an added dimension to the piece that juxtaposes enjoyably with the dark events of the plot.
Robert Louis Stevenson's dark novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was a hit when it was first released in 1886. Based on tonight's pacy and engrossing performance, Blue Orange Arts have a hit for themselves ahead of their residency at London's Cock Pit Theatre from 12th January to the 6th February 2016.
Great, absorbing theatre, excellently delivered.
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