Late 1800s: there’s a heavy fog surrounding London. For the doorman at a theatre of varieties, the seedy, dark atmosphere that envelops his place of work has become the norm. But there’s something altogether more sinister stalking the town, something even this streetwise fellow can’t hide from. Re-examining Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic gothic tale from the point of view of some surrounding characters, Flat Packed Theatre’s production utilises awesome visual storytelling to bring the horror to life on stage. Setting a tone from the very beginning, something doesn’t quite sit perfectly with Flat Packed’s show, stopping the constant sense of unease from developing into something gripping.
Hyde and Seek is a fantastic example of a production that deserves another run.
As solo show’s go, Michael Tonkin-Jones’s performance could not really be perfected further. Impressively slick and consistently emotive, Tonkin-Jones plays each of the multiple roles utterly uniquely. The script matches him, taking care to fully develop each personality beyond two dimensions. It is a huge burden to carry such a show on one actor’s shoulders, and perhaps this is a choice that inhibits the flow slightly. Changing from one character to the next in a dialogue situation often sees Tonkin-Jones launch himself from position to position across the stage, and the conversation naturally feels a little stunted. The script does nothing to aide – the play advances at such a crawl that at times the pace threatens to stop flat at zero. Moments of cabaret, though charmingly delivered, distract even more from advancement of the story, and hardly compliment Tonkin-Jones’s vocal range.
Nevertheless, Hyde and Seek is a refreshing look at the characters affected by the Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon. In particular, Jekyll’s mistress and theatre performer Daisy shows a wonderfully emotional response to the duality explored, just seeking someone to love her, to know her. The technical aspects of the performance impress too, but considering the capabilities hinted at, they rarely amaze. Instances of shadow play are quite excellently delivered, as is some smart technical trickery, but there is space here to really blow the audience away.
Hyde and Seek is a fantastic example of a production that deserves another run. From the acting performance, and a few dazzling occasions that the tech is used, the potential is so clear. Flat Packed should question why a solo performance is the right template to tell this story – what they are saying about Stevenson’s original themes by doing so. The show needs slightly better pacing, and the clearly talented company can really push the boundaries of what they are able to do, if they want to leave a lasting impression.