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Jekyll and Hyde | Dundee Rep Theatre (Original Online)

Presenting a far more faithful adaptation to the source material than more well-known stage versions of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, award-winning writer Gary McNair keeps the book’s main protagonist Utterson as the central figure. With the eponymous dual persona antihero presented as he was originally, as a fearsome legendary figure, humanised only by the musings of his close friend providing the narration of the tale.

Scottish actor Forbes Masson acts as the sole performer, taking us on a thrilling, at times humorous journey (not to be expected from this story) that lasts barely longer than an hour. He has the audiences gripped from his first, chilling lines to this multi-layered monologue. And although not every detail is able to be conveyed in such a brief timespan, we still feel like we gain a complete narrative, and the pacing doesn’t in any way feel frantic, nor does it drag or grind to a halt. The silences and moments of contemplation feel, if anything, like they add to the drama and intensity.

Lighting designer Richard Howell deserves a great deal of praise for some rather original set work, the use of minimal neon lights, and the accentuation of the darkness is actually quite brilliant, letting the narrative speak for itself, whilst simultaneously giving some weight to the more intense moments. That combined with Hammarton’s eerie, atmospheric music and sound design, as well as Michael Fentiman’s stunning direction, and we are presented with something really rather clever and innovative, which doesn’t try and distract from the performance, instead acting as more than ample support for the storytelling.

It can be difficult to keep an audience gripped throughout in a one-person play, however such is the worldwide appeal and familiarity of the tale of Jekyll & Hyde, paired with McNair’s adaptation, and led masterfully by Masson in a tour de force performance, that we never feel like the narrative plods or dithers in any way. And how wonderful to see the climax as it was intended, we as an audience, by this point, know that (spoiler alert) the two titular characters form two parts of the same man, yet the way in which the material is delivered makes us feel that we are experiencing it for the first time, providing us with a perspective that may well only be familiar to those who have read the book. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - James Tradgett (he/him)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are well established in theatrical canon, with more than 120 stage and film adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella since its publication in 1886. But this new imagining, filmed at Dundee Rep Theatre and presented online by commissioners Original Theatre, proves that there is always room for a new twist on an old classic.

Gary McNair’s adaptation, Jekyll & Hyde, strips Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella back to its Gothic roots, with the simplicity of the staging allowing audiences to focus on the language, the acting, and the terror that letting your imagination run wild can bring.

In the play, lawyer Mr Utterson rapidly recounts the tale of his friend Dr Jekyll and his encounters with villain Mr Hyde, a character who is first introduced to the audience trampling a young girl to death in the street. Hyde has also convinced Jekyll to change his will in his favour, and so Utterson sets out to unravel the mystery, with chilling consequences.

Forbes Masson delivers a masterclass in acting in this one-person show, effortlessly transforming between the different characters with minimal change in costume or setting. He commands the stage for the full 70 minutes, ramping up the tension while also leaning fully into the comic moments in McNair’s script.

The bare-bones set is perfectly suited to a filmed production, as the focus is entirely on Masson. Lighting and sound design, from Richard Howell and Richard Hammarton respectively, work perfectly in unison to enhance the eerie atmosphere, with the glowing outline of a door appearing with a quiet surge of sound to announce Mr Hyde’s presence. 

Film direction and cinematography from Tristan McShepherd is masterful, with plenty of close-ups on Masson’s face to draw you fully into the narration and provide the promised “better-than-front-row seats”, but also swings out or away at crucial moments to emphasise turning points and ramp up the tension. In a dramatic scene close to the end the camera follows Masson around the stage, lending a new dimension to the production. 

So grab your popcorn and find a pillow to hide behind, because Jekyll & Hyde brings Gothic chills and phenomenal acting to your very own living room. Jekyll & Hyde is available to rent from Original Online’s digital theatre library, either as a single title or as part of a membership. For more information follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Julie Fisher (she/her)

AD | photography by Mihaela Bodlovic


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