Review: Jekyll and Hyde, Southwark Playhouse ✭✭

Whilst I’m aware of the horror, I don’t really know the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Not many people do it seems, and Jonathan Holloway’s reworking of the tale plays on that basic conceit. In his world Dr Jekyll is a woman, a change that gives him a fantastic opportunity to explore gender identity and women’s role in society. Sadly it is an underexploited concept in what is a script high on exposition and low on terror.

There is huge technical excellence on display however as Joanna Scotcher’s set and Joshua Carr’s lighting design dominate the space. The backdrop of windows is voyeuristic and the cross lighting gives an eerie monochrome effect to the production.

Michael Edwards works hard as Henry Utterson, his pale make up washed from his face with sweat long before the end of the play. He is an exhibition of restrained potential, he and his fellow cast members hemmed in by a script that is functional rather than organic.

Laurence Osborn’s composition is similarly excellent, striking memories of the piercing tones of the Tiger Lillies. But sadly it is the only shrill and terrifying thing about the show. The title Jekyll and Hyde conjures images of something macabre, sinister and grotesque, but the menace constantly alluded to by Holloway’s text never rears its hideous head. Full of potential and with a cast not lacking in skill, Jekyll and Hyde fails to scare or intimidate in any way.

** (2 stars)
Runs until 19th October 2013
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