REVIEW: JEKYLL & HYDE (Old Vic Theatre)

Daniel Collins (Dr Jekyll), Jekyll & Hyde at The Old Vic. Photo by Manuel HarlanChoreographer Drew McOnie is a seasoned name at the West End, but “Jekyll & Hyde” marks his first own full length drama at the Old Vic Theatre.

There is not much going on in the life of botanist Dr Jekyll besides taking care of his meager flower shop in London’s raunchy 50s. At nighttime he likes to experiment with growing mixtures for his plants, and most recently the gorgeous Dahlia has found her way into his shop and straight to his heart. Things are about to change drastically when he happens to drip blood into one of his elixirs. As he infuses his plants with the potion, it’s not only them that change. Strange and sudden blackouts start plaguing him, during which his alter Mr Hyde surfaces. Hyde is everything the utterly adorable, dorky and shy Jekyll could never be: confident, butch, sexed up and violent. The new found mixture lets Jekyll’s business boom, the romance with Dahlia is clearly blossoming (if you pardon the pun), and aggressive Hyde takes care of Jekyll’s bullies. Everything seems on the up – but there are always two sides to a coin. As the situation with Hyde starts escalating, the lines between the personalities blur, and a fight for dominance begins.

Daniel Collins jumps, runs and spins across the stage without break or a gasp for air in front of a stunning turning backdrop. The costumes of the dance ensemble add dabs of colour and life to the dark background. Yet, no matter how lighthearted the action on stage is, there is always a vibe of impending threat, just as Hyde is looming in the shadows of Jekyll’s mind. The transformation between the two personalities is preluded by strobe lights, and while the switches may be done in a simplistic fashion (one taking the place of the other), those moments nevertheless feel baffling – partially due to brilliant casting. Whereas Collins (purposefully) choreographs his steps in a clumsy and goofy fashion, Tim Hodges is a powerful rockstar.

This production does completely without dialogue or lyrics, yet the storytelling through dance is straightforward and easily comprehensible at all times – we can probably thank McOnie’s background in musical theatre for this. Having the actors not only showcase heavy emotions but dance through rather mundane every day tasks such as dressing, reading a book, or using the telephone adds vibrancy and humour. McOnie manages to tell the plot of the Victorian novella without making the audience guess for meaning.

Every component of the mise en scène works together to create a smooth and flawless whole.

If this is just the beginning of what the McOnie company has in store for us, I cannot wait to see what else there is to come.

Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Photo: Manuel Harlan

JEKYLL & HYDE is playing at the Old Vic Theatre until 28 May 2016