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Stage Dragon Review: The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 3 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 3 Feb, 2022

By Ferenc Hepp

This classic story, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, was first published in 1886 and centres around a London legal practitioner named Gabriel Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde.

When he threatens to expose and destroy his work, Jekyll is forced to experiment on himself, and suddenly the brutal Edward Hyde is exposed.

Blake Kubena as Jekyll & Hyde in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde At the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Blackeyed Theatre Company are residing at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this week with their touring production of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted and directed by Nick Lane. They are one of the UK’s leading touring theatre companies and were established in 2004 to create exciting opportunities for artists and audiences alike.

Nick Lane has remained faithful to the original era, with the setting being reasonably minimalistic of just the essential furniture on stage being manoeuvred efficiently and quickly by the cast between scenes.

The story takes place between 1895 and 1897 and the setting by Victoria Spearing and atmospheric lighting by Claire Childs creates a perfect background to the action.

The full cast of Blake Kubena, Ashley Sean-Cook, Paige Round and Zach Lee in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde At the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

The cast is small in number with only four actors portraying all the characters, but with the quality of the performers, this works very well.

According to Nick Lane’s interview in the programme, portraying 16 characters by four actors, his intention was to “cast the right people who you know have got that skill” and he has certainly achieved that.

We first meet them all in identical masks, but these soon come off and the distinct characters emerge. Blake Kubena as Jekyll & Hyde is mysterious and powerful. The contrast between his two persona is always clear, and his transformation is consistently dramatic but not over-played.

Blake Kubena in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde At the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Paige Round as Eleanor Lanyon (amongst others) portrays women who are victims for different reasons, but at the same time defiant and wise despite all adversity, and that comes across brilliantly.

Paige Round in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde At the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

Ashley Sean-Cook as Hastings Lanyon has a great connection with Paige and we get a very clear understanding of the various relationships he portrays.

Ashley Sean-Cook in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde At the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

The cast are not merely acting out these sixteen parts between them, but regularly break the fourth wall, as they say in theatre, and explain the story as it progresses, either as a narrator or as the character they play at the time.

Zach Lee in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde At the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

A lot of this falls to Zach Lee, as Gabriel Utterson, and I found that he was the strongest at this role as the story teller. I enjoyed his narration throughout, it provides an extra dimension to the performance, and his intonation is such, as to keep our interest and concentrate on every word he has to say, even by the group of young students who formed a large part of the audience on Wednesday night, so that is definitely an achievement.

We also have the pleasure of listening to Paige’s lovely singing voice as some of the scenes are enhanced by haunting songs, composed by Tristan Parkes.

Even if you have seen a number of versions of this classic tale, I would recommend catching Blackeyed Theatre’s atmospheric and faithful to the original version either in Guildford this week or on tour, I do not think you will be disappointed with this four star production and performance.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde runs until Saturday, February 5 and tickets are available on the Yvonne Arnaud website or by calling 01483 440000.

 

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