Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Adapted by David Edgar
Rose Theatre Kingston / Touring Consortium Theatre Company
Rose Theatre, Kingston

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is adapted for the stage by David Edgar, first written in 1991 for RSC and now revived for the Rose Theatre, Kingston before heading out on tour. Edgar's an award-winning playwright and known for his success with adaptations so I was looking forward to a night of gothic horror.

Edgar’s adaptation is described in the programme as "renowned for staying true to the original world of crusty, ageing masculinity" and director Kate Saxon certainly emphasises these details. Unfortunately, verbose, crusty old men tend to be rather boring and here the action is certainly long-winded.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is 2½ hours with interval and the pace languorous. Trimming thirty minutes off the action would have made this show much pithier and avoided the repeated walkouts through the final act.

Pacing aside, this is a good looking show. Simon Higlett (set and costume) brings out the shadowy side of this Victorian world and Mark Jonathan’s lighting design is used to good effect to direct the often changing locations.

Saxon directs a competent cast, but there are no flashes of creative genius. Edgar inserts new female characters, adding backstory to Jekyll with the addition of his sister and her family and a maid.

Although this in turn adds more length, these roles become the highlight of the night. Servant girl Grace Hogg-Robinson (Annie) brings vivacity and a quickness to the role, whilst Jekyll’s sister Katherine (Polly Frame) is a colourful asset adding variety to the back-story.

Saxon inserts a singer (Rosie Abraham), who observes the action and adds a nice musical layer to the play.

Jekyll should be a gift of a role for any actor—the opportunity to play with two personalities onstage, and the morphing into Mr Hyde as his presence grows stronger. Sadly Phil Daniels doesn’t go far enough in the role. He differentiates the characters by their changing accent, from soft Edinburgh to gruff Glaswegian, but a consistent change in physicality is lacking.

This is a play with too many words and not enough imagination from Saxon to counteract the verbose script. Even the final climactic scene lacks taut, gripping tension and unfortunately the play fairly limps to it’s conclusion.

Reviewer: Louise Lewis