The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde
Adapted by Ross McGregor from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Arrows & Traps Theatre Company
Jack Studio Theatre
For Arrows & Traps' latest production, company founder and director, Ross McGregor has adapted Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 classic story of the mutation from good to evil, The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde.
Resetting the action from Victorian London to near-future America, McGregor has also—dare I say—transformed Utterson who investigates the strange happenings surrounding his friend Jekyll, the butler Poole and scientist Lanyon into female characters.
This, and the novel's themes of power, violence and public face versus inner persona, fit neatly into this post-Trump period with Senator Henry Jekyll standing for presidential office on a gun control ticket as its previous incumbent faces impeachment.
Gabriel Utterson, a lawyer in the original, is now Gabe (Gabrielle) Utterson, an investigative journalist haunted by the repulsive secret life led by her imprisoned father, a once public figure whom she idolised.
The seemingly unemployable Utterson works as Jekyll's campaign communications manager by day whilst investigating the increasingly strange goings on that surround him by night, making this into something of a political thriller.
Utterson is presented as a prickly, hard-boiled, hard-drinking, private eye type in a dysfunctional relationship with sex worker Imogen Poole.
It is a characterisation that dominates the action and doesn’t quite come off, impeding our sympathy for this unlikely heroine and throughout I heard weird echoes of politico Francis Underwood and journalist Zoe Barnes from Netflix's House of Cards.
McGregor's Jekyll, who meddles with science and unleashes an evil alter ego, is conflicted on many levels, his hidden homosexuality adding another dimension.
Will Pinchin does a good job of portraying Jekyll's complex, unstable character but McGregor could do more to endear Jekyll to us; good intentions are not enough. There is also a good performance from Gabrielle Nellis-Pain as Imogen Poole and Christopher Tester as Edward Hyde.
McGregor's writing could make the narrative clearer and be more economic as, at over two hours, this thriller is drawn out diminishing its impact, something it can ill afford given how well known the story is. But hats off to him for finding a refreshing and topical approach to a classic.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti