REVIEW: JEKYLL AND HYDE (Bridewell Theatre) ★★★
Jekyll and Hyde is one of the defining stories of the gothic genre, exploring the concept of duality set against the backdrop of Victorian London. Opening on Broadway in 1997, the musical is loosely based on the novel, with characters and love triangles being introduced for the musical adaptation.
Centre Stage London has created an updated version of the show, set-in modern-day London, complete with characters using iPhones, references to the NHS and murders being reported on screens with backgrounds reminiscent of Sky News. The idea to update the setting is an interesting one, although I’m not sure it was totally successful. London’s urban vibe wasn’t really represented – corrugated iron fences were used to show the ‘rougher’ sides of London, but there was no graffiti anywhere, which is certainly a big part of modern-day London. The style of music did not really suit the modern day setting either; several songs seemed out of place, sounding far from modern, and left me feeling confused about what era I was supposed to be in.
The big ensemble numbers were great. The voices of the different cast members blended together really well, making their harmonies very powerful and memorable. The opening song, “Façade”, displayed the talent of several cast members straight away. Considering that the cast are not professional dancers (although some looked like they have had dance training) the choreography was good and well delivered. “Bring on the Men” was another highlight, with scantily clad women (and a man) of all shapes and sizes performing one of the more memorable songs in the show.
The best performances came from the female leads, Charlotte Donald and Eva McNally. Donald showed real versality, going from being a femme fatale during “Bring on the Men” to then giving a very moving performance with “Someone Like You”. McNally was able to deliver her songs well but unfortunately the script did not allow her character, Emma Carew, to properly develop. This is the case with several characters in the production. So much time is spent on exploring the duality of Jekyll/Hyde, that other sub-plots (the love triangle for example) seem like an afterthought.
The Bridewell is a small theatre so every production is limited by the size of the stage. While the scenery was relatively basic, a backlit frame showing the ‘reflection’ of Hyde was used to great effect during “The Confrontation”, allowing us to see versions of both Jekyll and Hyde at the same time.
Clearly this was a passion project and it was obvious that everyone involved was really invested and had worked very hard on the production. There were flaws, some with the performance and some with the source material, but it is always really enjoyable to see people do something they are passionate about.
Reviewed by Stephanie Mansell
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