Jekyll

Hypnotist Theatre have a story they wish to yell at you, loudly, while writhing in semi-darkness so we cannot actually see whose story it is. While this creates powerful moments, it loses its oomph after the third or fourth time, and the show as a whole fails to sustain its power.

Hyde is a sinister self-help coach with enough charisma to enthral huge public devotion for her (very suspect) methods.

In this adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde, Hyde is a sinister self-help coach with enough charisma to enthral huge public devotion for her (very suspect) methods. Jekyll is new to the cause, and we watch her descent into adoration for Hyde. Through a series of surprisingly brutal scenes, we see Jekyll’s transformation from a meek individual to a force to be reckoned with, and then her development beyond into a force to be feared. Internet sensation Hyde’s radicalised followers are people who reach out and take what is theirs, no matter the consequences to those around them.

Hyde has the clear confidence of a predator, as she prowls around her victims (oh, sorry, people she is helping ‘be better’). Jekyll’s transformation from a timid young woman - who can barely get off a train - to a scarily forceful individual whose aggression is only matched by their sense of supreme self-control, is totally believable. Jekyll’s moments of reaction are horrid to watch because they are utterly deliberate. Both Jekyll and Hyde have mastered their stares: Hyde’s piercing glare as she takes her victims down, and Jekyll’s overwhelmed and adoring face of a zealot, whilst she watches Hyde on the screen. The ensemble were also of a very high standard and worked very well together as a whole.

Unfortunately, the piece is let down by its structure. It is very repetitive, with a huge section of the scenes consist of people standing in darkness yelling their particular section of the story at you in an onslaught of action. The concept is successful at overwhelming the audience, but leaves you confused as to what bits are important to the narrative. This performance style is used again and again, just giving us the impression that the company is out of ideas. It also means the audience knows what is coming in every scene as soon as the lights go up, draining the tension away.

Hypnotist Theatre have flung modernity at the piece to bring it up to date, so that Hyde sports an orange jumpsuit and her story is spread by online video, while Jekyll has various piercings, but they are left with weirdly out-of-date references. Jekyll is a door-to-door salesman, and the journalist writes on paper and talks into a dictaphone (which admittedly was a USB stick in disguise), leaving us confused as to when exactly the piece was set.

The plot with the journalist is particularly tricky to follow and seems to serve little purpose: he calls various people and leaves messages that are hard to distinguish from when people are answering the phone. I was almost glad when we went back to writhing in the dark. And after being battered by yelling, strobe and explosively loud white noise throughout, the end of the piece is equally anticlimactic, with a disappointing lack of comeuppance or closure for any of the characters.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Step inside and meet Ms Hyde: legendary life guru and professional provocateur. Adored by all, she can bring all your dreams to life onstage, and Jekyll can't stop dreaming of her. When Ms Hyde meets her greatest fan, their collision brings the curtain down. Hypnotist Theatre, the company behind last year's smash hits Grimm and The Architect, alongside Oxford University Dramatic Society, return with Jekyll – a breathtaking adaptation of the classic story. 'This is student theatre at its best' (Oxford Student). 'Chaotic ... twisted, but very good' (FringeReview.co.uk).

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