Theatre Review: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Theatre Mill

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6th February – 22nd March 2015, The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York

“Man is not truly one, but truly two.”

Theatre Mill deliver as promised an engaging site-specific experience beginning before the venue doors even open, and carrying the audience through the lobby – now a period pub complete with warming fire, period-style drinks and posters, and committed supporting cast creating an atmosphere from the off.

“Is there a Ladies’?”
“Of course, Madam, indoors as well!”

A brief encounter with an effusive, wary character called Rosie made me feel welcome and drawn in, though I was happy to leave her working on the macabre drawings of her visions that she had showed me when the time came to pass through to the auditorium.

The medieval guildhall is converted to Victorian London with disconcerting ease, foreboding fog creeping from crates in corners and footlights dimming under a green haze. Maids, bartenders and staff of the house of Dr Jekyll flutter through the auditorium, whispering their worries over the master’s recent habits.

Adam David Elms takes on narrator Gabriel John Utterson, David Chafer plays Dr Hastings Lanyon, and Viktoria Kay is Eleanor Lanyon, with James Weaver in the titular role.

Each of the cast save Weaver play a variety of roles, appearing from dark corners and behind pillars in an all-new guise, giving the performance a rich flavour of London society of the time. All are impressive and winning. A favourite of mine was Chafer’s patient, weary-looking butler, providing a touching, unspoken level of knowing and support for Jekyll that perhaps he did not even realise was there.

Weaver brings a worn, desperate quality to Robert Louis Stevenson’s driven doctor that tells from the first of tragedy and compromise. Indeed, the action begins with a sequence that is later revisited, instating the ominous tone and highlighting the precious value of hindsight in this particular ‘strange case’.

The design is incredibly effective; colourful, simple, versatile, smoothly adjusted. Hanging lights become streetlamps, laboratory surfaces become beds with neat theatrical trickery that calls on years of discourse between actors and audience to continue a willing suspension of disbelief.

The soundtrack is also notable; a continuous, fluid soundscape that efficiently serves to amplify the feelings on stage. It works in seamless conjunction with the narrative-driven lighting design.

Violent scenes are slick and, dare I say, enjoyable, and handled as tastefully as gothic should be.

Theatre Mill are a company to keep your eye on for an exciting, satisfying storytelling experience.

Find out more about the company and their productions here.

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