The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Zach Lee, Jack Bannell, Ashley Sean-Cook and Paige Round in Blakeyed Thaetre’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Lighthouse, Poole (Tuesday 6th March, 2018) 

It seemed rather special to be watching this clever adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s psychological fantasy just a few short miles from the site of Skerryvore, the house where he wrote it back in 1887.

Wracked by illness and semi-delirious from his medication, Stevenson penned The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in a feverish frenzy, completing his story in a matter of days. It was brief, brilliant and has been a Gothic horror classic ever since.

In this production by Blackeyed Theatre, writer and director Nick Lane has expanded the original tale of Doctor Henry Jekyll and the radical experiments that summon up the evil Mr Edward Hyde. He has added a back-story, fleshed out the characters and produced play that, while remaining true to the original, adds several extra dimensions.

The core of Stevenson’s novella is as powerful as ever.  Henry Jekyll is essentially a good man driven by an obsession to explore the dark side of the human psyche in pursuit of a pioneering breakthrough in the treatment of mental illness. Despite caution  from friends and colleagues he’ll stop at nothing to ensure that his experiments go ahead - even taking his own potions.

A strong cast, headed by Jack Bannell as both Jekyll and his murderous alter-ego Hyde, bring Lane’s adaptation to vivid life. His solicitor Gabriel Utterson (Zach Lee) and friend Hastings Lanyon (Ashley Sean-Cook) watch helplessly as Jekyll  battles with his own psychological weakness, giving in to the power and control offered by Hyde. But Lanyon’s wife Eleanor (Paige Round) fascinated by his medical theories, impressed by his passion and sexually aroused by the brutally amoral Hyde, spurs him on. There are inevitably disastrous consequences.

With an effective though relatively sparse set and some very creative lighting, this drama is both a great piece of story-telling and gripping theatre.

One thing puzzled me though. Why has Nick Lane chosen to set the story in the 1890s, a decade after Stevenson wrote it? It appears to make no difference at all. Or am I missing something? 

*Blackeyed Theatre’s production of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde plays Lighthouse again tonight ( Wednesday 7th March).

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2018