The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Mark Stratford
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

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Mark Stratford in the The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Credit: Dan Bridge
Mark Stratford in the The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Credit: Dan Bridge
Mark Stratford in the The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Credit: Dan Bridge

A bit of Gothic drama seems especially fitting on a cold, wintery night and Mark Stratford obligingly delivers with The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which visits the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre as part of a tour running until mid-year.

Stratford’s is a neat adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic 1886 novella of good versus evil, which he has carefully crafted to mirror the sequence of the book and even adopted some of the original text.

At 75 minutes, it is a lot more fleet and digestible than the book which, as far as I remember it, is rather repetitive and, dare I say, a bit boring in some places. I may be doing it an injustice, but I am glad I am not a GCSE student with the original text on my curriculum. Those who are should get along to Stratford’s show to see the characters come alive.

Stratford the actor glides between characters, giving each a physical trait or accent that becomes their mark, a light to guide the way through the series of accounts that come together to complete the tragedy of Henry Jekyll.

The events that lead to the necessary dénouement are inflected with detail—a walking stick recognised from the past, familiar handwriting, the name on a cheque—that is presented with subtle weightiness.

Assisted by being bookended by police Inspector Newcomen, we see them impartially as pieces of evidence, but when we hear Jekyll’s confessional explanation, the facts take on a different, more human nature. It is a nuance that impels us to sympathy.

Without labouring it, Stratford‘s adaptation also succeeds in capturing the period of the novel, its social morés and something of the standing of medicine and scientific experimentation within it. This may not sound of great significance, but it underpins understanding the other contextual conflicts which Jekyll must balance, not just the uppermost one of good’s fight to control its stronger opposite.

As adaptor and performer, Stratford‘s biggest achievement is staying so close to the original material, accommodating its textures, and yet making it such a gripping piece of theatre.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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