The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson
Rhum and Clay Theatre Company and Beth Flintoff
The Watermill Theatre, Newbury

Julian Spooner as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Credit: Philip Tull
Julian Spooner and Matthew Wells Credit: Philip Tull
Matthew Wells, Julian Spooner and Christopher Harrisson Credit: Philip Tull

The Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his infamous novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in ten weeks; it was published in 1886 and was an immediate success.

The highly talented Rhum and Clay Theatre Company together with The Watermill’s Outreach Director Beth Flintoff have inventively adapted this classic story into an ingenious macabre play that’s filled with stunning theatrical creativity and a wonderful comic sense of the absurd.

Julian Spooner is superb as the brilliant Doctor who works during the day at a London hospital and by night he philanthropically helps the poor, ill and wretched folk of the east end of Victorian London, treating them in his own home.

He is desperate to find a cure for mental illness and begins to experiment on himself creating a potion that turns him into Mr Hyde, an evil predator prowling the streets in the dead of the night causing havoc as he loses control of his faculties and transforms into a chilling, volatile fiend.

This is very much an ensemble production with the other two actors playing multiple roles. Christopher Harrisson is excellent as the endearing housekeeper, Mrs Bradshaw, and by contrast plays Dr Hastie Lanyon who is the perfect foil to Jekyll’s ideas.

Matthew Wells is impressive as Mr Pool, the loyal faithful butler who begins to suspect his master and brings a gravitas to the earnest, trustworthy lawyer Gabriel Utterson, who is determined to find the illusive Mr Hyde.

There is much fun in this play as well as powerful dramatic moments, strong physical theatre, clever shadow work all played with huge energy and at breathtaking speed.

The Gothic unexpected ending caused a gasp from the hugely appreciative audience.

Designer, Hayley Grindle has imaginatively recreated a Victorian theatre with a false proscenium arch and an intriguing set with shelves of books, medical bric-a-brac and a double door leading onto the London streets.

Strikingly lit by Lawrence T Doyle and with a haunting atmospheric soundscape by Neil Starke, this is an enthralling production that has a mix of madcap wit in the style of Monty Python with a real feel of the torture and madness of Jekyll’s split personality. Highly recommended.

Tours to village halls and arts centres throughout Berkshire until the 22 June. Details from the theatre box office 01635 46044.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp