Stranger than fiction


Nick Lane’s adaptation, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Yvonne Arnaud Theatre), of Robert Louis Stevensons’ classic is a cleverly crafted piece of writing, tweaking the original in subtle and effective ways, and is given an excellent production by Blackeyed Theatre. It is a strange tale indeed, one in which Doctor Henry Jekyll is close to discovering something that will change medical science and he is willing to do whatever it needs to achieve his goal. Threatened by a friend who will expose his unethical ways he begins experimenting on himself. It goes horribly wrong and Jekyll soon has a new friend, the brutal Edward Hyde.

Victoria Spearing’s set is atmospheric and portentous. You can almost smell the stench coming up from the sewers of London’s foggy streets, the perfect setting for this deed most foul. Stylised movement, especially the slow motion, by Enric Ortuño adds an ethereal dimension to the show where the more violent scenes become a dichotomous blend of artistic and heinous. The transformation from doctor to monster is a thing of horror and Blake Kubena relishes the opportunity to play the role impressing with his ability to use his body and facial expression in portraying the change. His eyes are almost demonic when he becomes Hyde.

Claire Childs’ lighting design gives an already evocative setting added threat with shadows cast long and short suggesting something awful is about to happen, yes just like the movies. Silhouetted characters loom large from the alleyways and there is the tacit implication Hyde is not the only mutant that can be found in the rat infested gutters. A classic made anew and an ideal production to treat young (11+ according to their publicity though my nine-year-old niece would love the gore) and old with its sinewy and intriguing storyline. This strange case is well worth investigating as it continues to tour the UK.

Meanwhile Sotira Kyriakides is feeling underwhelmed…

When it comes to contemporary dance, Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal (Sadler’s Wells) is up there in the pantheon. The company should be praised for keeping the Bausch flame alive long after the choreographer herself passed away. At its best, Bausch’s choreography manages to convey  a gamut of emotional states and moods, vividly and viscerally, pulling at the heartstrings and creating empathy with a spectrum of characters and feelings.

Kontakthof, however, is a let-down by comparison to Bausch’s later work, and I speak as a seasoned Bausch observer who has taken every opportunity to see her work. This piece stutters along the same wavelength for far too long, wallowing in pedantically faltering scenarios of unrequited love, emotional desolation and despair. At three hours long, the emotional monotony and matching clichéd choreography symbolising unfulfilled desire, breed boredom and ennui, especially for those of us who know what Bausch is capable of. The company should expend its energies on presenting the more mature and sophisticated works by Bausch, which do justice to her capabilities.

Finally, Athasha Lyonnais goes through a gamut of emotions…

The Glow (Royal Court) is Alistair McDowall’s arresting new play. I say ‘arresting’ because more than anything I’ve seen recently this play managed to pull the rug out from underneath me multiple times, leaving me feeling tender in places, frightened in others, uplifted in some and finally moved to tears. It would be a huge mistake to spoil the events of the play, especially after McDowall and director Vicky Featherstone did such a good job of producing a unique and vital piece of theatre. However, I would like to do my best to convince you to see this play, so I’ll try and give a little bit of an overview.

In 1863, a wealthy woman visits an asylum, and finds a girl, barely able to speak, with no recollection of her name or past, abandoned in a windowless cell. The woman is a spirit medium, and the girl will be her assistant. That describes the first fifteen minutes of the play, and seems like the set up for an extremely effective, but also extremely well-trodden Victorian Gothic horror tale. Nothing goes the way it should, and instead McDowall lifts off from this premise to deliver an incredibly moving meditative piece on the impermanence of life, and the importance of building connections in the here and now. This is a play that will stay with me for a very long time.


Dr Jekyll and Mr


The Glow –





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