mon 04/03/2024

Jekyll and Hyde, Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh review - audacious contemporary resonances | reviews, news & interviews

Jekyll and Hyde, Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh review - audacious contemporary resonances

Jekyll and Hyde, Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh review - audacious contemporary resonances

Gothic excess mingles with more modern themes in a one-man transformation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella

Plenty of sepulchral shadows: Forbes Masson as everyman UttersonMihaela Bodlovic

Evil walks among us. But it doesn’t arrive courtesy of mad scientists, bubbling potions and horrifying transformations. Instead, it comes from ordinary people surrendering themselves to their basest desires and resentments. Even worse, doing that feels… good.

Anyone expecting jump scares and hideous, barely human creatures from Jekyll and Hyde at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre – boiled down from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella into an intense 70-minute solo show by Scottish writer and performer Gary McNair – might be disappointed, at least partially. Indeed, there’s quite a bit about McNair’s literary transformation that might bring you up short. The original’s glorious gothic excess – its haunted alleyways, its misguided scientists, its air of brooding mystery – is all present and correct. But his language sometimes sounds more of our own times than of Stevenson’s. And it’s hard not to see thoroughly modern parallels, too, in the monstrous attitudes towards tolerance, compassion, even life itself that McNair quietly ushers onto the stage.

Not that his Jekyll and Hyde is particularly didactic – more, perhaps, unsettlingly relevant. And immediate, too – a quality that’s reinforced, in fact, by McNair’s daring decision to entrust the show to a single performer. In this case, that’s accomplished Scottish actor Forbes Masson (on stage at the Lyceum for the first time in two decades), playing Stevenson’s rather guileless lawyer Utterson, and he proves a delightfully slippery presence throughout. He’s certainly not the good guy – that much he makes clear right from the start – but perhaps he stands as more of an unreliable narrator, or an Everyman. Certainly his bewilderment at the shocking events he observes – usually from a distance – is what prevents him from acting, at least for the most part. Wouldn’t we do the same? Masson mulls and chews over McNair’s rich and witty lines in a thoughtful but carefully paced performance, one of steadily mounting tension as pennies drop and connections are made. Director Michael Fentiman ensures the focus stays laser-like, and that Masson’s sometimes restrained delivery nonetheless has the power to draw attention from the furthest corners of the Lyceum’s interior.

Max Jones’s design is minimal but effective – just some dry ice, free-standing lights, and plenty of sepulchral shadows, plus a stage within a stage, highlighted by some effective neon outlines courtesy of lighting designer Richard Howell. His sudden, flashbulb-like visual shocks might wear a little thin by the end of the show, but he pulls off some magical tricks, too, as Masson disappears into a glow of light, or stands as an unnerving illuminated figure against a ghostly backdrop.

Pared down in length and performing forces, there’s a danger that this Jekyll and Hyde might feel somewhat slight, even ephemeral. But it’s taut and tight nonetheless, and cunningly choreographed by writer and director through the narrative’s light and darkness. It’s a creepy production that stays true to the macabre spirit of Stevenson’s original, but with its audacious resonances for our own times, Jekyll and Hyde packs a considerable contemporary punch.

Masson's bewilderment at the shocking events he observes is what prevents him from acting. Wouldn’t we do the same?

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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