Darlington Hippodrome – until 19 May
The Touring Consortium Theatre Company’s adaption of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde arrives in Darlington for the final leg of this tour. Adapted by David Edgar from the Robert Louis Stevenson original, this is an epic production.
A story of good versus evil and battling for the same body, Phil Daniels play the gentle Dr Jekyll with a light Scottish brogue but as changes into Mr Hyde he becomes a nasty, sadistic, drunken Glaswegian – think Rab C Nesbitt crossed with Billy Connolly and a touch of The Krankies and you have the idea. With no variance in costume, the company didn’t fall back on clichéd tactics to define Hyde, instead the metamorphosis of the sedate Dr Jekyll into an angry, violent Hyde is cleverly represented purely through body language, stance, voice and swagger. The quality of Daniels acting produces a demonstrable change from one character to the other.
This being a Victorian gothic horror, the parts are mainly male but the few women in the production are outstanding in their roles. Polly Frame as Katherine, Jekyll’s sister knows something is wrong but guesses too late the real reason. Maid Annie (the excellent Grace Hogg-Robinson) escapes her brute of a father to fall into worse danger. Brutally raped by Mr Hyde and cast out for loose morals by Dr Jekyll, she is finally instrumental in his downfall. I can only hope that in the aftermath kind Katherine took care of Annie and her niece or nephew.
The men of the play – Poole the man servant (Sam Cox), Dr Lanyon (Ben Jones), Enfield (Matthew Romaine) and Utterson (Robin Kingsland sporting the most fantastic mutton chops and beard) work out that trouble is afoot but social niceties prevent them from interfering too much as Jekyll is a gentleman so beyond reproach and like Katherine are just too late in apprehending Hyde
Simon Higlett’s impressive set and wonderful costumes help to evoke a country house, railway station, London home, scary laboratory and the streets of the East End with only minor changes such is the versatility of the design. Edgar’s adaption leaves you wondering how much of Hyde was the unleashing of a monster and what was simply the freeing of Victorian repression. Jekyll is an admired, amiable man, one who treats his servants well, is kind to family and friends. He is seemingly the opposite of Hyde who embraces anger and enjoys violence, does what he wants and considers people disposable. With this premise, Kate Saxton’s direction along with Mark Jonathan’s lighting and Richard Hammarton’s sound, added to the stunning acting, and we are left with a chilling psychological thriller.