There seems to be a resurgence of interest in the adaptability of works by Robert Louis Stevenson for the stage, with productions popping up in many quarters. In this instance Mark Stratford has faithfully abridged and adapted The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for his solo performance, adhering to Stevenson’s words and following the sequence of chapters in the book.
Stratford is a master in the art of creating characters
The piece is set in a large meeting room at Scotland Yard, where Inspector Newcomen and Mr. Utterson, Dr. Henry Jekyll’s lawyer and most trusted friend, recount for the assembled audience the series of events that occured at Jekyll’s house the night before and, in so doing, relate this tale of Gothic horror.
Stratford is a master in the art of creating characters and in this classic story he has ample opportunity to demonstrate his skill. Starting out with a perspiring and somewhat stereotypical portrayal of the classic London bobby, Newcomen, clearly impressed with his status as an inspector, he generates members of the public, neighbours, the houseboy, Utterson and most dramatically the eponymous heroes. In so doing he places them in positions and locations that move with events and create a sense of place for everything that happens.
An issue with taking on such a well-known story is very much that there are no surprises; we all know what happens and that puts added pressure on the ability to portray the characters. Stratford doesn’t fall short here, but a significant part of the story is told twice. We hear from various sources the narrative of events and then see them enacted in his remarkable morphing from Jekyll to Hyde. This duplication adds to the running time, which at eighty minutes is long for a monologue whose plot is so familiar.
Nevertheless this faithful interpretation of ‘the strange story’ should prove attractive to aficionados of the genre and newcomers alike.