The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich

The Jekyll and Hyde tale is well known, a monster transformed out from a well respected individual – and an apt way to start this review of European Arts Company and Rhonda Cynon Taf Theatres touring production. What the company manage to do is turn a classic tale into a monster creation all of its own.

The programme boldly proclaims this a ‘deliciously dark retelling of this classic tale’. Unfortunately it is neither delicious nor dark. It will instead leave you with a bitter taste and suffering from nightmares for all the wrong reasons.

In place of any tension, suspense and drama we are offered two hours of dreary, ill thought out sketchy slapstick. It is like four first year drama students have been given ten minutes to come up with an adaptation of Stevenson’s novel with minimal props.

The device used in this production is to tell the tale through the eyes of actor Richard Mansfield (historically the actor who performed the first stage adaptation in 1888) and a band of customers in an East End pub. Instead of a period piece however, we get overacting and spectacularly ‘un’ special effects (smoke machine and blue strobe light with gun shot sound effects for the Jekyll/Hyde transformation anyone?).

The whole mess isn’t helped by clunky scene changes carried out by the cast. An earlier review praised the ingenious scene changes and comic interludes, but there are only so many times you can watch crates being moved around stage in a lime green lighting wash before loosing interest. Any dramatic tension built up is instantly lost in these numerous long winded transitions.

The cast do through themselves into the piece with gusto, hamming it up in mock melodrama manner but here is one monster of a production that should be locked back in a dark cage and never shown the light of day again.

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