The dark gothic tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is set in a 1930s jazz club with a live pianist and singers. This new version of the well-known story is brought to the Cockpit by Blue Orange Theatre for a four week run.
The play is ‘based on’ the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, rather than a faithful retelling of the story. This version of the macabre tale of the conflicted Dr Jekyll’s battle with his alter-ego Mr Hyde, is punctuated with excerpts from songs including Putting on the Ritz; I Get a Kick out of You and The Man I Love performed by Nicola Foxfield and Sarah Gain.
The cast of five (two women and three men) play multiple parts, switching costumes and sometimes accents as they take on the many characters involved in the story. I found this initially confusing but was soon impressed by the ease with which the performers switched roles.
The theatre space at the Cockpit has been turned into a jazz club with a thrust stage, cabaret tables and a grand piano. Not all of the action takes place in the club and it felt slightly awkward when the actors continually mimed opening and closing the front door of Dr Jekyll’s home (this happens a lot with many visitors coming and going as the mystery deepens). A half-face mask was used to indicate the switch between Jekyll and Hyde; the respectable Dr Jekyll wears the mask while the sinister Mr Hyde exhibits his dark nature through visible disfigurement.
There are some gruesome and violent sections in this play. This is stated in the publicity (Addiction, Murder, Sex, Violence and Desire) and those who are easily disturbed should be aware. I was impressed with this adaptation of a familiar story which kept my interest to the end and with a few tweaks it could be even better.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans