Working with a tight script from Stuart Crowther and some inspired direction from Stephen Smith, Threedumb Theatre have created a wonderfully atmospheric version of
A well-loved show whose devilish delight is in the significant detail.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one of those tales which seeps – somewhat aptly - into the consciousness. No-one ever seems quite sure where they first read it… if they even have read it… which one is Jekyll and which one is Hyde… but still we know it. In our bones. Because it is – one hopes to an exaggerated extent – the story of our own human duality. As individuals, it is a struggle we face daily: from the casual lie of “The cheque’s in the post” to the rather more weighty “Where will that extra biscuit lead?” As a global society, the genie is more fully out of the bottle: we are surely collectively nearing the point where Jekyll fears Hyde may be rather more than an infrequent visitor… with much hilarity lying in the precarious realisation that all sides are anxious it is their path of righteousness which has been strayed from.
Years before hygge or even – whisper it softly - the profundity of ‘live, laugh, love’ wall art, our nineteenth century literary forebears knew a thing or two about the quest for personal fulfilment. Be it vampires, noxious substances or supernatural works of art, the Victorian search for a prism through which to excuse the insistent nudging of sexual decadence is of course central to the Jekyll and Hyde story. But that Edward Hyde can attain levels of assumed debauchery free of the rigid morality which constrains Henry Jekyll is only the beginning of the story. For the cautionary tale here is of the respected pillar of the community who, having sipped from the heady cocktail of depravity, needs more and ever more to slake his lust. Yes, those Victorians also knew a thing or two about emotional self-flagellation, and whilst we are largely left to guess what starts this descent into evil, we are left thoroughly concluded that he would have been far better off leaving that pesky potion alone in the first place.
For the uninitiated, Dr Jekyll is a well-respected chap whose tinkering with chemicals leads to metamorphosis into Mr Hyde – a creature whose carnal lusts birth more and more violent and bloody means of satisfaction. Jekyll (originally thought to have been pronounced to rhyme with ‘treacle’ in Stevenson’s original Scots dialect) worries about these visits. His friends worry. His servants worry. But as in all cautionary tales, the writing was really on the wall from the outset. Hyde will kill Jekyll as surely as he has every other dissenter who has wandered into his path. The moral is clear: beware of that which is lurking inside you. Don’t deviate. Keep clean. Remain respectable.
As Jekyll, Jonathan Davenport must be congratulated on his astute judgement of a character who could, in the wrong hands, so easily fall towards a Grand Guignol caricature. His performance is as one with the special effects which mark his psychological torment, and Davenport somehow manages to give a generous performance in what is essentially a one-man show. It is of course this intellectual bounty and depth of connection that gives much of the Fringe its own in-built sequins: when storytelling is and remains your primary objective, you can remain true.
From the opening meander around the stalls to the credit boards and everything in between, this is a well-loved show whose devilish delight is in the significant detail which has been lavished on it. As armchair theatre goes: this is definitely worth changing channels for.