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Hyde and Seek

Ben Oldfield
Flat Packed Theatre
Underbelly, Cowgate
to

Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a ripe fruit for Fringe traffic, as, despite it's Soho setting, the book was clearly inspired by the author's knowledge of Auld Reekie. It's not the first time that the story has graced the boards of an Edinburgh August, but this adaptation is certainly unique in a variety of ways.

Hyde and Seek takes Stevenson's "fine bogey tale" and transports it from the land of lawyers and academics into a musty theatrical slum. This story is told by Albert, the stage doorman of a disused theatre frequented by Dr Jekyll, who has an arrangement with one of the working girls in the club. Much of the story is rather the same, albeit with Jekyll and Hyde interacting with Albert, who grows ever more uneasy about it all.

It's a bold move to put on a one-person show in any event. In the case of Hyde and Seek, Michael Tonkin-Jones is not only performing all of the roles but, in an unusual turn, activating all of the sound cues, lighting changes and musical cues. This is no mean feat, as the stage is lit with a series of hanging bulbs and street lamps and the choreographed movement and lighting changes constantly scene to scene. Not to mention the singing and dancing, projected imagery and even a spot of ventriloquism going on.

In all, it's a wonderful mixture of vaudevillian horror and conventional storytelling with the winking fun of the stage, humour and song tied into moments of genius, with puppetry, sleight of hand and even an extended shadow-puppetry fight sequence. Tonkin-Jones is marvellous and clearly has enough talent for a dozen shows, let alone this one. The drawback of the piece is that the play gets bogged down in conventional story during the middle before springing back into the fun. This part of the show, while never being dull, doesn't feel entirely in keeping with the more humorous, experimental start and close.

That said, it's an absolute rollercoaster ride and a herculean endeavour for a single performer. Bravo.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan