Review: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde - Gothic drama fails to live up to Stevenson’s classic tale

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
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IF Mr Hyde is the worst of the worst, this production of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde starts off as Hyde, but unlike Stevenson’s creation lacks the ability to transform.

* *

KING’S THEATRE, Leven Street

Is it due to David Edgar’s stupefying adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Gothic masterpiece? Possibly.

Or is it because of Kate Saxon’s ham-fisted direction? Possibly.

Or perhaps it’s down to the ‘church-hall acting’ demonstrated by so many of the company.

Or the casting of adult actors in the roles of children, a bizarre and problematic choice that lends a sense of the ‘Comic Strip does Jekyll and Hyde’ to proceedings.

In truth, it’s all of the above that make this production a strong contender for ‘Worst Show to tour to the Capital for quite some time’ - it certainly gives last year’s Cuttin’ A Rug a run for its money.

At the heart of it all is Phil Daniels in the lead role, or should that be lead roles.

On Simon Higlett’s Dickensian set, which works well and is atmospheric for the most part (if you can ignore the glowing luminous orange door), Daniels flits between Jekyll and Hyde with all the subtlety of a pantomime baddie braying for boos.

His Dr Jekyll boasts an ‘educated’ Edinburgh accent, he sounds like Porridge star Fulton Mackay, while his Mr Hyde speaks with a Glaswegian edge that more than once morphs into Billy Connolly.

The voices apart, there is little to differentiate one character form another and, in truth, there are times when his Mr Hyde is a more agreeable prospect than his Dr Jeykll.

It’s a curiously detached performance, which finds the actor choosing to play many lines out to the room rather than the character he is addressing, yet he does so without ever breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience.

If there is a saving grace on stage - one that lifts this review from the one star it would otherwise be - it is Polly Frame as Jekyll’s one-eyed sister Katherine.

She alone manages to invest her character with a sense of truth, even when playing opposite the aforementioned ebullient adults masquerading as kids.

If the intent of this production was to capture the melodrama of a Victorian Penny Dreadful, it fails on every level, the heightened performances more reminiscent of a rightly, long forgotten B movie.

With the first transformation played off-stage, hidden from the audience, Hyde’s later change back is in full view, the result is under whelming at best and as audience members walk out midway through the first act, others laugh as Hyde murders his first victim, so incredulous is the action.

The inappropriate laughter does not stop there.

So be warned, attend the good Doctor at your peril, although if you fancy an evening of coarse acting, this could be right up your street.

Run ends Saturday 14 April