Jekyll & Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Caroline Devlin
Guildford Shakespeare Company
St Nicholas' Church, Bury Street, Guildford

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Samuel Collings in Jekyll & Hyde Credit: Matt Pereira
Samuel Collings in Jekyll & Hyde Credit: Matt Pereira
Samuel Collings in Jekyll & Hyde Credit: Matt Pereira

A church is always an interesting setting for a theatrical production—dependent upon your own relationship with religion, the building can be welcoming or foreboding, comforting or imposing. That duality therefore makes the Victorian pomp of St Nicholas’ in Guildford an appropriately atmospheric setting for Guildford Shakespeare’s latest production, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde.

Making full use of the high ceilings, pillars and shadows, Mark Dymock’s playful lighting design moves the action from street to laboratory, church to private rooms and is complemented by Matt Eaton’s booming soundscape. In combination, they are consciously bold but never melodramatic, a tone consistent with the overall piece.

In a departure in form for the company; this is a one-man play, and one that needs an actor who can deliver simmering intensity from the start. With carefully chosen props and only a few items of costume, the actor and altar are the focal points—divine and dangerous.

Playing a total of nine roles, Samuel Collings gives an acting masterclass, fully embodying every character, however fleeting their appearance. As Gabriel Utterson, he is a sincere and increasingly distracted narrator taking the audience on the perplexing and menacing journey with him. Marieke Audsley’s carefully paced direction ensures that every inch of the space is utilised and Collings’s physicality is revealed as the plot unravels. Together, they draw both humour and terror from Caroline Devlin’s taut script leading to a startling conclusion that signals the 70 minutes of storytelling is over.

The number of adaptations of Jekyll and Hyde proves there is still something compelling for modern audiences and Guildford Shakespeare’s production offers a short and gripping delve into one of the most sinister of gothic tales.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston